Fish Oil (Omega-3s)
Benefits for brain health and aging
In one study, doctors measured the diets and 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 percent less likely to show signs of cognitive decline.
In another study of 819 individuals, researchers found that those who took fish oil had better cognitive functioning in individuals who had a normal baseline cognitive function and in individuals who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease known as ApoE4. Researchers also 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 at any given time in the study.
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 as a nutritional supplement for age-related cognitive decline. This randomized, 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. Collectively, data reveal a potentially beneficial role for DHA in preventing or ameliorating cognitive decline in the aged.
These findings suggest possible benefits of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) on brain health and aging.
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 completed cognitive assessments, using measures of immediate and delayed verbal memory, orientation and attention. Participants deficient in vitamin D had increased cognitive impairment compared to those with sufficient vitamin D levels.
The correction of vitamin D deficiency may have immense potential for the prevention of cognitive impairment and dementia, given the high prevalence of deficiency and the easy, inexpensive, and safe way in which vitamin D can be supplemented.
Contains neurotransmitter precursor
Lecithin, a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, has a positive effect on brain and memory functions. Your body uses choline 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 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 in clinical trials 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 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 (a building block for proteins). ALC 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.
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.
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.
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.
Reduce 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 recent study performed at Ohio State University found that consuming curcumin significantly reduced 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 a curcumin’s beneficial effect on cognitive functioning.
Supports blood flow to the brain
Vinpocetine, derived from vincamine (an alkaloid found in the periwinkle plant Vinca minor), 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.
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.
Restore memory loss
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, discovered that niacinamide, a type of 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. The results suggest that niacinamide may work in the same manner in humans. Based on these findings, a human clinical trial is in progress sponsored by the National Institutes of Health using 1,500 mg a day.
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 magnesium L-threonate enhanced different forms of learning and memory in both young and aged rats. The study found that magnesium L-threonate increased brain magnesium and boosted the number of connections between brain cells involved with memory functions. Human trials are now underway.
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
With the proper diet and the right dietary supplements, one can improve cognitive function and help combat age-associated memory loss. New research for other ingredients are encouraging.
Astaxanthin may reduce the build-up of hydroperoxides that accumulate in dementia patients.
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.
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.