You can maintain brain function by “challenging” your brain.
You can do this in many ways, for instance by engaging in puzzles, social activities such as playing “bridge,” taking classes in person or on the computer, using any of the computer or phone-based brain applications on the market, as well as challenging your brain with new tasks such as learning a new language.
Of course, exercise is an excellent way to maintain brain function as it increases the production of brain growth factors as well as increasing brain blood flow and metabolism
However, as your brain ages, it loses some of the energy for maintaining and building the parts of the brain cells. Studies have shown that supplementation with important brain building blocks preserves your brain structure and improves your memory:
A. Phosphatidlyserine (PS) is a phospholipid found in particularly high concentrations in brain cell membranes. It helps these membranes act as your brain’s “gatekeepers” by regulating nutrients in and waste out of your brain. PS reduces the wear and tear of stress by normalizing the stress hormone cortisol. The suggested dose is 100mg three times a day.
B. Supplements that increase acetylcholine help learning and memory. Choline is a precursor of acetylcholine.
1. Citicoline, or CDP-Choline is a building block of the brain that increases sphingomyelin, cardiolipin, acetylcholine, dopamine, and betaine. It improves memory, learning, motor skills, and coordination in both animal and human studies. Dosage: 1-2g a day
(Refs: Weiss GB.: Metabolism and actions of CDP – choline as an endogenous compound and administered exogenously as citicoline. Life Sci 1995, PMID:7869846)
Citicoline has been the subject of nearly 1000 studies, 380 of these in humans.
2. Alpha-GPC (alpha-glycerophosphocholine) is a bioavailable form of choline that quickly and efficiently enters the brain.
3. Huperzine A raises acetylcholine levels by blocking an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine.
C. The fish oil component DHA, which is part of your cell’s membrane, sharpened memory in Japanese studies. It can be used for dementia and depression and improves behavior and speech in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Low levels of DHA are associated with an increased risk of memory loss.
D. Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC or ALCAR) is an amino acid well documented for its ability to improve alertness, focus, mental clarity, and mood.
The following substances increase the production of “growth factors” by your brain, which helps your brain functioning:
A. Blueberry extract
B. Lion’s Main
C. Coffee fruit
Other substances help the brain function better.
A. Vinpocetine is an herb that improves memory and overall mental well-being. It works by increasing blood flow to the brain, enhancing the brain’s use of oxygen, and protecting the brain from free radical damage. It is very popular in Europe and Japan where it’s available by prescription only.
B. The spice Curcumin, or Turmeric can improve memory and concentration by increasing blood flow, neurotransmitter formation, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which stimulates new brain cell production.
C. The herb Ginseng demonstrates the ability to enhance memory and the ability to pay attention.For memory improvement, look for a ginseng supplement that contains Cereboost. This patent-pending American ginseng extract has clinical studies to back up its claims that it improves memory, mental clarity and sharpness. Use a 400mg dosage.
(Ref: PMID 20676609)
D. Magnesium l-threonate is a relatively new form of magnesium supplement with the unique ability to permeate brain cell membranes making it a good choice for improving memory, attention, depression, and anxiety. Look for a supplement that contains Magtein, a patented brand of magnesium l-threonate that’s a proven cognitive enhancer. The suggested dose is 1,000 mg twice a day
E. The Herb Rhodiola Rosea is an excellent herbal remedy to try if you believe your memory loss is due to too much stress, or is accompanied by anxiety, depression, brain fog, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
F. “Prevagen” is a substance derived from jellyfish, that reduces excess calcium in the brain, and was found in a three month study to improve memory, word recall, learning and executive functioning. It will need further studies, however, to prove it’s effect. It is available at most large drug stores and is available in 10 mg and 20 mg dosages.
In addition, as your brain ages, not only is it subject to more free radical, oxidative or “redox” stress,, but it also gradually loses some of its ability to stop this process.
There is substantial evidence for impaired methylation in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), including elevated levels of homocysteine, indicative of impaired MS activity. Oligomers of the amyloid beta (A-beta) peptide (complexes of 2-3 molecules) are thought to be the initiator of AD pathology, beginning decades before overt symptoms are evident.
Nathaniel Hodgson focused his doctoral research on the redox/methylation effects of A-beta oligomers, finding that they inhibited the ability of growth factors to increase cysteine uptake, lowered MS activity, and inhibited methylation, including DNA methylation.
Based on these activities, it appears that A-beta oligomers have a physiological role to limit excessive neuronal activation, which normally helps to sustain and prolong brain function, but too much A-beta activity tilts the redox balance toward oxidative stress and neurodegeneration.
Notably, several studies have demonstrated that the combination of folic acid, B12 and B6 is helpful for mild cognitive impairment and decreases the progression of AD.
Memory Supplement Ingredients to Be Used with Caution
There are some popular memory supplements that for various reasons should be avoided under some circumstances.
Some haven’t withstood scientific scrutiny, while others are best obtained from foods and not in the form of supplements.
A few should not be taken before consulting with your doctor.
Understand the pros and cons of these supplements before you decide to try them.
Galantamine is derived from the snowdrop flower (Galanthus caucasicus) and works by blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine.
It straddles the line between being a drug and a natural remedy.
In the US, it’s approved for treating Alzheimer’s and is available as both a prescription and over-the-counter remedy. (72)
It’s not recommended for minor memory loss since it can have some serious side effects. (73)
If your memory loss has you concerned, this is one supplement you should not take before talking to your doctor.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the most popular herbal remedies on the planet and is most commonly taken for memory improvement.
More than $250 million is spent each year on Ginkgo biloba supplements, but its usefulness for memory improvement has not stood up to scientific scrutiny. (74)
Other proven uses for ginkgo are for anxiety and depression.
MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil has been enjoying its 15 minutes of fame as an ingredient in “Bulletproof” coffee.
But long before that, it was popularized by Dr. Mary Newport who used it along with coconut oil to treat her husband’s early onset Alzheimer’s.
She published a detailed account of his progress in her book Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was a Cure?.
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One exciting study found that adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an intermediate stage before dementia, experienced an immediate and significant improvement in memory after taking a single dose of MCT oil. (82)
But so far there is little scientific evidence that MCT oil increases mental performance in healthy adults. (83)
And there is little point in taking MCT oil until you’ve upgraded your diet to replace unhealthy vegetable oils like canola and soy oils with coconut oil, the main dietary source of medium chain triglycerides.
Resveratrol is a compound found in red wine, grapes, and several kinds of berries that is sold as a brain supplement to improve memory and provide protection from age-related mental decline. But isolated resveratrol foun in supplements is not very stable or well utilized in the body. (84, 85)
Almost all of the research (and surrounding hype) about resveratrol comes from animal studies.
The most significant human study is the Chianti Study.
After tracking study participants who lived in the Chianti region of Italy for nine years, researchers found no correlation between resveratrol levels and any health markers. (86)
Another study found that resveratrol increases blood flow to the brain, but no positive changes in mental performance were detected. (87)
If it’s memory improvement you are after, skip this supplement and instead take a look at the Mediterranean diet and its inclusion of red wine.
Green tea has been revered in Asia for its ability to increase longevity, mental clarity and physical stamina.
One of the most important compounds in green tea is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).
EGCG is especially protective against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (88)
It promotes new brain cell creation in the parts of the brain affected by these diseases and reduces brain plaques linked to Alzheimer’s. (89)
You can take supplemental EGCG, but it is notoriously unstable and poorly absorbed. (93)
It’s much better to get your EGCG by drinking green tea.
That way you’ll also reap the benefits from the synergy between EGCG and the other nutrients in green tea, notably the relaxing amino acid l-theanine and caffeine. (94)
Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee and tea, and is added to energy drinks, think drinks, and many brain supplements to boost energy, memory, productivity, and focus. (95)
If you are prone to anxiety, this is one ingredient to skip.
Too much caffeine can cause significant anxiety symptoms, even in people with no history of anxiety disorders.
While pure caffeine pills and powders are available, they are dangerous and definitely not recommended.
Pure caffeine is an extremely powerful psychoactive drug and it’s easy to take too much.
Unfortunately, there have been a few deaths from caffeine powder overdose.
One of the most unexpected memory boosters is nicotine.
While no one would recommend you start smoking, there’s a lot of evidence that isolated nicotine (NOT derived from smoking tobacco) is one of the best cognitive enhancers around.
More than 40 studies support the conclusion that nicotine improves memory, attention, accuracy, response time, and fine motor skills — and it does so surprisingly safely. (96)
This is no secret among college students, biohackers, and desperate seniors who already use various nicotine replacement products to improve mental performance.
But the experts strongly advise against this unless you’re working with a health care profession
Your brain can fall victim to many aging insults–Both internally and externally. Restore more youthful brain functioning with carefully researched brain supplements, diet choices and environmental stimulation. As below, it is important to optimize brain memory cell stress protection and reduce external damaging stressors: