Nutrition For Your Brain: 7 Best Cognitive Boosters, According to Science
Getting older is inevitable. But memory loss is not, according to a conclusion reached at the Alzheimer’s Prevention and Research Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. More and more research is pointing to ways you can potentially dodge common brain complications and forms of dementia through brain-friendly nutrition that supports optimal cognition.
Top 7 Nutrients For Healthy Brain Function and Memory
In addition to healthy lifestyle practices, a plethora of research indicates that certain nutrients can help sustain and promote excellent brain function as we age.
If you’re concerned about maintaining healthy brain function well into your 70s, 80s and beyond, (and who isn’t?), make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients your brain craves to maintain sharp memory.
Here’s a list of the top 7 brain boosters and why they’re beneficial.
1. DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid)
It’s no secret that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are critical to brain health. One of the main constituents of fish oil is DHA, which has been identified as the component in fish oil that protects the brain 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.
2. Vitamin B12
In 2011, a story surfaced that struck fear into many: A woman was being treated for brain and memory disorders, when in reality she was just incredibly low in B12 stores. Turns out, this isn’t uncommon; many physicians don’t run routine blood tests for the nutrient, which is especially troublesome considering that our ability to absorb B12 is dramatically reduced with age. Over time, low vitamin B12 can do a number of your cognition.
Reason: Vitamin B12 supports brain health in critical ways. The water-soluble B vitamin helps the body convert carbohydrates and fats into energy the brain needs to function properly. It also helps reduce the brain shrinkage often associated with cognitive disorders, supports healthy sleep-wake cycles (incredibly important, given what we now know about sleep and Alzheimer’s risk), and aids the proper “firing” of communications between neurons.
The current mainstream medical solution on blood sugar management may be nowhere near as safe as we’ve been told.
3. Phosphatidyl Serine
Phosphatidyl serine is thought to increase communication between brain cells. It can also restore a primary neurotransmitter that is important to memory and cognitive function.
Reason: Besides keeping cells intact, this membrane performs vital functions. These actions include 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. This result was present in specific aspects of memory performance. Phosphatidyl serine is shown in studies to boost cognitive function. This occurs 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.
A constituent of the turmeric spice, curcumin was first discovered for its brain health benefits when epidemiological studies revealed those in regions with a high consumption of the curry spice turmeric had fewer reported cases of cognitive diseases. It is theorized that the unmatched anti-inflammatory power of curcumin, in combination with its unique antioxidant make-up, inhibits the formation of amyloid build up in the brain.
As you may or may not know, curcumin has become a darling of the nutrition world in the last several years, thanks to a flurry of research that indicates the turmeric derivative can do everything from support the brain to reduce painful body-wide inflammation to even support positive mood. You can learn more about the research behind curcumin here:
8 Reasons Curcumin Was Just Named the “King of All Spices”
5. Gingko Biloba
Ginkgo biloba has long been associated with stabilization or improvement in memory and reasoning. This is the case even with Alzheimer’s patients.
Reason: A recent study showed that ginkgo biloba has a protective effect during a stroke, thanks to its ability to slightly thin the blood and pour antioxidant power into the system. While doses can vary (especially in combination with other nutrients) 120 mg a day is average recommended dosage.
In general, it seems to help roughly 50% of users boost their cognition almost immediately, while for others it can take more time. 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.
6. CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Aging is accompanied by a reduced production of CoQ10. Without it, your brain can’t work at full power.
Reason: CoQ10 is an extremely powerful antioxidant. It is an energy booster within all cells. Also, it’s particularly concentrated in the heart and brain. If you’re over 35, it is usually recommend to get 200 – 400 mg of CoQ10 daily.
Acetyl-L-carnitine appears to be effective in mild cognitive impairment. This may be an early signal of Alzheimer’s.
Reason: Acetyl-L-carnitine can protect the brain from neurotoxicity. It can also ward off oxygen deprivation. Acetyl-L-carnitine can even preserve cells energy-producing mitochondria. Plus, it can rejuvenate mental and physical function. Dosages for studies have been in the 1,500 – 4,000 mg range. These are divided into two or three doses. However, we recommend no more than 1,000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine a day without medical supervision.