The 7 Best Brain Boosting Supplements
Getting older may be inevitable, but memory loss and Alzheimer’s are not. That’s the conclusion of the Alzheimer’s Prevention and Research Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. More and more research is pointing to ways your lifestyle can prevent Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. By exercising and following a healthy diet — one low in saturated and trans-fats, refined sugars and white flour products, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables — you can reduce the inflammation and plaque build-up that can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s.
These same lifestyle changes also protect you from heart disease and diabetes—two 21st century killers that can wreak havoc your brain. However, it seems that even if your brain has been inundated with the plaque that signals Alzheimer’s, you may function just fine if you remain heart healthy and free of diabetes, because your brain is able to create supplementary circulation to replace what is lost! In some cases, loss of circulation from mini strokes may be what sets dementia in motion — not the plaques themselves.
In the 10-year Nun Study, conducted by David Snowden, MD, 678 nuns donated their brains to science when they died. Researches who examined the brains found that some that were loaded with plaque belonged to women who showed no evidence of dementia, while some with lesser amounts of plaque showed a crippling level of cognitive impairment. Because such complete records had been kept on these women, researchers were able to attribute some of the differences to exercise, eating habits, education and continued learning.
While TV commercials and Big Pharma may have you believing that prescription drugs like Aricept are the only ways one can combat Alzheimer’s, that has more to do with the money drug companies have to throw around than the research available on alternative or nutritional treatments. In addition to healthy lifestyle practices, much research has indicated that certain supplements can help sustain and promote excellent brain function as we age.
The supplements recommended by the Alzheimer’s Prevention and Research Foundation, founded by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, author of Brain Longevity, are the same as many of the supplements covered extensively in Jean Carper’s book, Your Miracle Brain. If you’re concerned about brain function as you age, (and who isn’t?) talk to a knowledgeable doctor or nutrition-oriented health practitioner who can help you make decisions about what to take.
Here’s a list of the major helpful supplements and some of the reasons they’re helpful.
1. A Comprehensive Multivitamin
(Make sure it contains at least 400 mcg of folic acid and 500 mg of vitamin C.)
Generally speaking, multivitamins have demonstrated an incredible ability to protect the brain and improve memory. In one recent study, researchers found that supplementing with a daily multivitamin resulted in improved measurements of electrical activity in the brain while performing a memory test.
Reason: Folic acid reduces homocysteine, a known risk factor for heart disease and strokes. Dr. Snowdon discovered that the greatest brain damage was associated with the lowest blood levels of folic acid and the least brain damage with the highest levels. 400 – 1,000 mcg is the suggested dosage. Folic acid should be taken with vitamin B12.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and promotes the transmission of messages through the brain. While under estimated in the brain health arena, adequate vitamin C is associated with a 20% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s. 500 – 1,000 mg is suggested.
2. CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Aging is accompanied by a reduced production of CoQ10, and without it, your brain can’t work at full power.
Reason: CoQ10 is an extremely powerful antioxidant and energy booster within all cells, and it’s particularly concentrated in the heart and brain. If you’re over 35, we recommend 200 – 400 milligrams. CoQ10 supplementation is extremely well researched and has been proven to both effective and safe.
Alpha lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant with many positive effects, including preventing stroke damage and protecting the nerve cells of diabetics—but its protective properties are especially active in the brain.
Reason: Alpha lipoic acid is also one of the few nutrients you can take orally that raises levels of the antioxidant glutathione in brain cells. Low levels of glutathione predict chronic diseases, including degenerative brain disorders and early death. We recommend 50-200 mg of alpha lipoic acid a day. Diabetics may need 200 – 600 mg.
4. Gingko Biloba
Ginkgo biloba has long been associated with stabilization or improvement in memory and reasoning even with Alzheimer’s patients.
Reason: Scientists think it’s because it may have a blood thinning effect. A recent study showed that ginkgo biloba has a protective effect during a stroke, preventing or diminishing stroke related brain damage. 120 mg a day is the recommended dosage. In general, it seems to help about one out of two people. If you haven’t seen an improvement after using ginkgo for 4 – 6 weeks, you could try a double dosage. If that doesn’t help, you may not be a responder to ginkgo.
Phosphatidyl Serine is thought to increase communication between brain cells and restore a primary neurotransmitter that is important to memory and cognitive function.
Reason: Besides keeping cells intact, this membrane performs vital functions such as moving nutrients into cells and pumping waste products out of them. Investigators in one study determined that phosphatidyl serine shaved 12 years off the normal expected decline in specific aspects of memory performance. Shown in studies to boost cognitive function by increasing communication between brain cells, those who took 100 mg of phosphatidyl serine three times a day, with meals for 12 weeks scored 30% higher on memory and learning tests. Many other studies have corroborated these types of findings. In another study it worked just as well for people with mild to severe cognitive impairment. With advanced Alzheimer’s patients, it has not proven very effective. It works best when taken at the first signs of the disease. We recommend 100 mg of phosphatidyl serine twice a day.
6. DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid)
It’s no secret these days that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are critical to brain health. One of the main constituents of fish oil, DHA, has been identified as the component in fish oil that protects brains from dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Reason: More than 50 percent of your brain is comprised of DHA! Among a big group of elderly Americans, those with the highest blood levels of DHA were about half as apt to develop dementia and 39% as apt to develop Alzheimer’s as those with lower blood levels of DHA over a nine-year period. The top 25% of those with the highest blood DHA got about 180 mg DHA a day, or three servings of fish a week, researchers said. In this study, the other major fatty acid in fish oil, EPA, had no effect.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine appears to be effective in mild cognitive impairment, which may be an early signal of Alzheimer’s, as well as early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Reason: Acetyl-L-carnitine can protect the brain from neurotoxicity and oxygen deprivation, preserve cells energy-producing mitochondria and rejuvenate mental and physical function. Dosages for studies have been in the 1,500 – 4,000 mg range, divided into two or three doses. However, we recommend no more than 1,000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine a day without medical supervision.
In recent years, researchers have also discovered that curcumin, an extract of turmeric, may also have significant implications in Alzheimer’s prevention. It is thought that curcumin may block the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, reduce inflammation and provide further antioxidant protection to brain cells. To learn more about this breakthrough research, check out our archive on curcumin and brain health.
It is estimated that 1 in 8 Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s, but this devastating disease is not a normal part of aging and can be prevented! Act now to protect your brain with exercise, a healthy diet and brain boosting supplements!
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Article updated on: September 15th, 2014