Fish Oil (Omega-3s)
Benefits for brain health and aging
In one study, doctors measured the cognitive performance of 1,475 adults, at least 55 years old, who did not have dementia. They tested the group again 1.5 years later. Subjects who took omega-3 fish oil supplements were 63% less likely to show signs of cognitive decline.
In another study of 819 individuals, researchers found a significant positive association between fish oil supplementation and average brain volumes in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking, as well as less brain shrinkage compared to non-users.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the principle omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and heart, plays an important role in neural and cardiac function. Decreases in plasma DHA levels are associated with cognitive decline in both healthy older adults and Alzheimer's patients.
A recent clinical study examined the effects of 900 mg of DHA per day on age-related cognitive decline. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 485 healthy subjects found significantly fewer learning errors and positive effects on Verbal Recognition Memory with DHA at six months versus placebo. These and other findings suggest possible benefits of EPA and DHA on brain health and aging.
Contains neurotransmitter precursor
Lecithin contains phosphatidylcholine, a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which has a positive effect on brain and memory functions. Your body uses phosphatidylcholine to produce acetylcholine, a substance involved in learning, memory, muscle function, sleep, arousal, hormone secretion and circulation. It allows nerve cells to send impulses properly. Research has shown that two tablespoons of lecithin granules daily helps mild memory problems associated with aging.
In one study, 96 patients with mild cognition disorders received lecithin or placebo for 84 days. The overall psychiatric rating (Sandoz Clinical Assessment Geriatric) score improved 14% more in the lecithin group than in the placebo group.
Improve memory function
Phosphatidylserine has been shown to improve memory, concentration, word recall, and mood in middle-aged and elderly people with dementia and age-related cognitive decline.
A 6-month, double-blind, randomized, controlled study of 78 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment taking a placebo or 100 mg or 300 mg of phosphatidyserine (PS) per day found that the memory scores in the PS group were significantly increased against the baseline, while those of the placebo group remained unchanged. The memory-improving effect of PS was equally observed in both the low and high dose of PS. The study concluded that 6 months of supplementation with PS is safe and could improve the memory functions of the elderly with memory complaints.
Support memory and cognition
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is an amino acid which participates in cellular energy production, a process especially important in neurons. Studies of those with memory problems have reported modest advantages over a range of memory tests for ALC supplement groups compared to placebo.
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, patients with mild dementia and vascular dementia received ALC in doses from 2,250 to 3,000 mg per day or placebo for 12 weeks. Each patient’s state was assessed with a battery of neuropsychological tests. The positive treatment effects of ALC were 2.8 times higher than in placebo-treated individuals.
Studies demonstrated 1-2 gram daily doses of ALC for improvement in long-term memory performance. Lower doses of ALC may have some preventative attributes for cognitive health.
Huperzine A (Huperzia serrata), an alkaloid isolated from a club moss, helps prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine (a brain neurotransmitter essential to memory). In an unpublished phase II clinical trial, two standard cognitive tests indicated cognitive improvement when taking 400 mcg of Huperzine A per day.
Supports blood flow to the brain
Studies have shown that Ginkgo biloba extract may have various health benefits, including those for failing memory, dementia and poor blood circulation. It helps maintain healthy blood vessel tone and reduce blood viscosity, allowing more blood to flow to the brain.
A meta-analysis of 9 trials using standardized Ginkgo biloba extract for 12 to 52 weeks in duration and included 2,372 patients, concluded that Ginkgo biloba appears more effective than placebo for cognitive function.
Supports blood flow to the brain
Vinpocetine, from the periwinkle plant, works by opening up blood vessels for better blood flow. In clinical trials involving patients suffering from mild to moderate vascular dementia, vinpocetine benefited memory and cognitive performance.
In a double-blind clinical trial, vinpocetine was investigated for safety and efficacy in elderly patients with chronic cerebral dysfunction. Forty-two people received 10 mg of vinpocetine three times a day for 30 days, then 5 mg three times a day for 60 days. Those on vinpocetine scored consistently better in all evaluations of the effectiveness of treatment, and no serious side effects were observed.
Stabilize cognitive functions
Oxidative stress is a characteristic biochemical hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It’s therefore conceivable that antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) might delay the onset or slow down the progression of the disease.
In one study, 600 mg of ALA was given daily to 9 patients with AD over an observation period of 12 months. Cognitive tests revealed stabilization of cognitive functions in the study group. The study data suggests that ALA might be a neuroprotective therapy option for AD.
Pycnogenol is an antioxidant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree. Research demonstrates Pycnogenol improves the memory of senior citizens. One study included 101 elderly participants who consumed 150 mg of Pycnogenol daily for 3 months. They were assessed each month for a range of cognitive and biochemical measures. Pycnogenol significantly improved memory after 3 months and inhibited the oxidation of nerve membranes.
Prevent cognitive impairment
Vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with a host of adverse brain outcomes, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and cognitive decline. Population-based studies have linked low blood levels of vitamin D to cognitive dysfunction in older adults.
In one study, 3,325 adults aged 65 years or older who were deficient in vitamin D had increased cognitive impairment compared to those with sufficient vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D supplementation has immense potential for the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia, given the high prevalence of deficiency combined with its safe history of use and inexpensive cost.
Works on brain plaque build-up
Curcumin is isolated from the curry spice turmeric. Interestingly, it has been purported that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in India among the elderly between 70 and 79 years of age is four-fold less than those in the United States. It’s believed that the curry in Indian food may account for this difference.
A study performed at Ohio State University found that consuming curcumin significantly impacted the deadly amyloid plaque that develops in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Epidemiological research shows beta-amyloid begins accumulating during middle age. The results of this study, as well as other research data, point to curcumin’s beneficial effect on cognitive functioning.
Enhance learning and memory
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is a cofactor for over 300 enzymes and is needed for the proper functioning of many systems, including the nervous system. A special form of magnesium called magnesium L-threonate is a highly bioavailable magnesium compound that could significantly increase brain levels of magnesium through dietary supplementation.
A recent study published in the journal Neuron found that a special form of magnesium (magnesium L-threonate) enhanced different forms of learning and memory in both young and aged rats. The study found that it increased brain magnesium levels and boosted the number of connections between brain cells involved with memory functions. Human trials are now underway.
Restore and prevent memory loss
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, discovered that niacinamide (vitamin B3) restored the memory loss of mice with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). For 4 months, researchers administered niacinamide to 40 mice, half of which were bred to get AD. At the end of the study, the AD-mice performed just as well in a memory-testing maze as healthy mice. The niacinamide not only protected their brains from further memory loss, but also restored lost memory function.
Another B-vitamin, folic acid, when combined with vitamins B6 and B12, helps to lower homocysteine levels associated with with onset of dementia. In one study, healthy older adults received either a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement (100% Daily Value) or a placebo for 56 days. After 8 weeks, those taking the multi had significantly lower homocysteine levels than the placebo group.
The brain uses MCTs for fuel
Anecdotal and preliminary science show coconut oil may slow or even prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A doctor wrote a book documenting her success using coconut oil to treat her husband who was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband could barely remember how to draw a clock, a typical test to gauge the severity of the disease. He then began eating 4 tablespoons of coconut oil twice a day. In five weeks his ability to draw a clock was dramatically improved as well as other symptoms.
With Alzheimer’s disease, certain brain cells may have difficulty utilizing glucose for brain fuel. Without glucose, neurons in the brain may begin to die. As an alternative brain fuel, the body can use ketones. The body makes ketones from oils containing medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) such as coconut oil. When MCT oil is digested, the liver converts it into ketones.
Despite the fact that coconut oil is a saturated fat, research shows it may also be heart healthy too. The reason for this is that coconut oil is composed of MCTs which are metabolized in the liver into energy and does not participate in the creation of cholesterol.
More Brain Boosters
New research for other ingredients are encouraging.
Astaxanthin may mitigate the build-up of hydroperoxides that accumulate in those with dementia.
Alpha Glycerol Phosphoryl Choline: Alpha-GPC is a precursor to acetylcholine and can improve memory, thinking skills and learning. Clinical studies showed it improved memory in those with dementia disorders. Research suggest taking 1,200 mg a day.
Creatine is being studied for its benefits for cognitive performance.
DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) may increase levels of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Multi-vitamins, when taken for at least one month, were effective in improving short-term memory according to a meta-analysis of 10 clinical trials involving 3,200 participants.
PQQ (Pyrroloquinoline quinine): PQQ offers a wide range of neutral and cognitive support. In a randomized, double-blind study of 71 middle aged adults who supplemented with 20 mg of PQQ daily, an improvement was found in performance tests of cognitive function.
Vitamin E: Higher blood levels of vitamin E (mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols) were associated with lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study in Sweden.
Be sure to read future editions where we’ll update you with the results of new research on brain aging and how you can roll back your mental clock.
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(Kato-Kataoka A, Sakai M, Ebina R, Nonaka C, Asano T, Miyamori T. Soybean-derived phosphatidylserine improves memory function of the elderly Japanese subjects with memory complaints. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2010 Nov;47(3):246-55. Epub 2010 Sep 29)
(Acetyl-L-Carnitine Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review 2010; 15C1J:76-83)
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Omega-3 Fish Oil
(Ott B, Gongvatana A, Dunsiger S, Cohen R. Miriam Hospital and Brown University. International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease, in Paris, France, 2011)
(Yurko-Mauro K. Cognitive and cardiovascular benefits of docosahexaenoic acid in aging and cognitive decline. Curr Alzheimer Res. 2010 May;7(3):190-6)
(Balestreri R, Fontana L, Astengo F. A double-blind placebo controlled evaluation of the safety and efficacy of vinpocetine in the treatment of patients with chronic vascular senile cerebral dysfunction. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1987, 35, 425–430)
(Ha GT, Wong RK, Zhang Y. Huperzine a as potential treatment of Alzheimer's disease: an assessment on chemistry, pharmacology, and clinical studies. Chem Biodivers. 2011 Jul;8(7):1189-204)
(Ng TP, Chiam PC, Lee T, et al. Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol. 2006;164(9):898-906)
(Llewellyn DJ, Lang IA, Langa KM, Melzer D. Vitamin D and cognitive impairment in the elderly U.S. population. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Jan;66(1):59-65)
(Green KN, Steffan JS, Martinez-Coria H, et al. Nicotinamide restores cognition in Alzheimer's disease transgenic mice via a mechanism involving sirtuin inhibition and selective reduction of Thr231-phosphotau. J Neurosci. 2008;28:11500-11510)
(Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron 2010;65:165-77)
(Alzheimer’s Disease: What if There Was a Cure: The Story of Ketones, by Dr. Mary Newport. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2011; 20:190-195)
(Weinmann S, Roll S, Schwarzbach C, Vauth C, Willich SN. Effects of Ginkgo biloba in dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Geriatr. 2010 Mar 17;10:14)
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Alpha- Lipoic Acid
(Hager K, Kenklies M, McAfoose J, Engel J, Munch G. Alpha-lipoic acid as a new treatment option for Alzheimer's disease--a 48 months follow-up analysis. J Neural Transm Suppl. 2007;(72):189-93)
(Ryan J, Croft K, Mori T, et al. An examination of the effects of the antioxidant Pycnogenol on cognitive performance, serum lipid profile, endocrinological and oxidative stress biomarkers in an elderly population. J Psychopharmacol. 2008;22(5):553-62)
(Grima NA, Pase MP, et al. The effects of multivitamins on cognitive performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2012; Feb 13 [Epub ahead of print])
(Mangialasche F, Simmons A, et al. Tocopherols and tocotrienols plasma levels are associated with cognitive impairment. Neurobiol Aging 2011, Dec 20 [Epub ahead of print])
Yousry Naguib is a senior scientist at Nutrition Express. He has a Ph.D. in chemistry (Simon Frasier University, Canada). He holds 12 patents and has published over 80 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals and articles in health and nutrition magazines.