Aging 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 waysyour lifestyle can prevent Alzheimer’s. By exercising and following a healthy diet — one low in saturated and trans-fats, refined sugars and white flour products, and rich inomega-3 fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables — you can reduce the inflammation that can play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
These same lifestyle changes protect you from heart disease and diabetes. Avoiding the ravages of these two 21st century killers also protects your brain. 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 may have you believing that the prescription drug Aricept is the only pill you can turn to to 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, certain supplements can help sustain and help promote good brain function as we age.
The supplements recommended by the Alzheimer’s Prevention and Research Foundation, founded by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, author ofBrain 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 other health practitioner who’s nutrition-oriented to 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. For more detailed information read our special report,Natural Ways to Prevent Alzheimer’s (free online).
1. A Comprehensive Multivitamin (Make sure it contains at least 400 mcg offolic acid and 500 mg of vitamin C.)
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 withvitamin B12.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and promotes the transmission of messages through the brain. Adequate vitamin C is associated with a 20% reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s. 500 – 1,000 mg is suggested.
2. CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Reason:CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant and energy booster within all cells, particularly in the heart and brain. Aging is accompanied by a loss ofCoQ10 and without it, your brain can’t work at full power. We recommend 100 – 200 milligrams. CoQ10 supplementation is extremely well researched and has been proven to both effective and safe.
Reason:This potent antioxidant has many positive effects, including preventing stroke damage and protecting the nerve cells of diabetics. Butalpha 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 a day. Diabetics may need 200 – 600 mg.
4. Gingko Biloba
Reason:Ginkgo biloba has long been associated with stabilization or improvement in memory and reasoning even with Alzheimer’s patients. Scientists think it’s because it may have a blood thinning effect. A recent study showed thatginkgo biloba has a protective effect during a stroke — it can help prevent or diminish 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 usingginkgo for 4 – 6 weeks, you could try a double dosage. If that doesn’t help, you may not be a responder toginkgo.
5. Phosphatidyl Serine
Reason:Investigators in one study determined thatphosphatidyl serine shaved 12 years off the normal expected decline in specific aspects of memory performance. 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)
Reason: In a study at Tufts University, reported in 2007,DHA was identified as the component in fish oil that protects brains from dementia and Alzheimer’s. 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.
Reason:Acetyl-L-carnitine can protect the brain from neurotoxicity and oxygen deprivation, preserve cells energy-producing mitochondria and rejuvenate mental and physical function. It 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. 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.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line:It is estimated that 1 in 8 Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s, but this devastating disease isnot a normal part of aging and can be prevented! Act now to protect your brain with exercise, a healthy diet and brain boosting supplements!
Boost Brain Power
The brain is an often overlooked, but insanely important organ. In fact, it may just be the most important organ of all. People, in general, seem overly preoccupied with their skin,hair, muscles, body fat percentage and overall health of their outer appearance. Little do they release that maintaining a healthy brain can have beneficial effects both immediately and over a long period of time.
The world is becoming more and more complex and the amount of information we take in can be overwhelming. If we want to succeed in life, we can't just ignore it. The smarter we are the better. The key to a healthier smarter life begins with the brain. To fight off the threats of old age memory loss, Alzheimer's and dementia, begin taking care of your brain now.
Before I list the 6 Best Brain Supplements, I want toadd that the #1 most important thing you can do for your brain is stay hydrated. Dehydration is the number one cause of poor brain performance. Getting proper vitamins and nutrients is #2 which can be achieved with supplements.
The following are the best brain supplements of the decade in the fields of health, focus, memory, and mental energy:
1. DHA.A component of theomega 3 fatty acid. DHA is a crucial fatty acid that makes up a large portion of your brain. It is commonly found in fish, so unless you eat a high fish diet, supplements are your best bet. DHA has been identified to be influential in protecting the brain from harmful diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's.
2. Choline.This supplement comes in a number of forms, all which claim to work better than the other. The important thing to understand is your brain operates under the direction of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which controls memory and learning. By taking choline based supplements, the acetylcholine inyour body is boosted. Choline supplements have been proven to slow the mental decline from aging as well as boost memory and concentration.
3. Ginkgo Biloba. Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest used supplements. It too is used to improve memory and concentration, but works in a different way. Ginkgo Biloba is a blood thinner that helps move oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and brain. It has also been proven effective in stroke prevention and resuscitation.
4. Vinpocetine. A brain supplement designed to boost oxygen utilization. Vinpocetine works by dilatingblood vessels so they can cross the blood brain barrier. Users have noted increased recall and mental alertness as a result of taking Vinpocetine. Some say it is the solution to mental fogginess.
5. Geranium Stem. A new and controversial supplement for intense mental and physical energy. Many pre-workout supplements use this ingredient to boost athletic performance. Geranium has similar stimulating effects as caffeine, but does so without the negative side effects like a crash and or jitters. Geranium is often recommended as a treatment for ADHD. This supplement is best for increase mental energy, acuity, and alertness.
6. Schizandrol-A. This supplement works best when combined with caffeine or Geranium. It elevates mood and increases concentration by boosting dopamine and dopac. Schizandrol-A has been shown to dramatically increase concentration and the overall health of the central nervous system.
Supplements should be taken on a daily basis to improve the functioning and health of your brain. Remember to stay hydrated and to take the correct amounts of these supplements. When possible, purchase ready made products that include these supplements for safe formulation.
Many people consume a substance every day that affects the brain -- caffeine, a mild stimulant that helps with reflexes and cognition. Caffeine is not the only substance with this characteristic. Several supplements on the market may also serve as brain boosters. Use them under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to normal brain functioning. These substances help make up a significant proportion of the brain tissue itself. Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with poor performance on tests of memory and cognition, according to a 2007 article by physician Laurie Barclay in "Life Extension Magazine." She notes that a diet that includes plentiful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the cognitive decline common in aging. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be manufactured in the body, so they must be obtained through the diet. Fatty fish are the best source, but people who do not consume much fish in their diets can substitute fish oil supplements. Consult a qualified health care provider about whether fish oil supplements are appropriate for you.
Oxidative damage to brain cells is a factor in the slow learning, failing memory and loss of coordination that often accompany old age, according to the Franklin Institute. Antioxidants can help protect the cells from oxidative damage by combating free radicals, which are unstable molecules that form as a result of pollutants, alcohol exposure, cigarette smoke and normal metabolic processes. Antioxidants are abundant in green leafy vegetables and in fruits, especially berries. They also are available in supplement form. Do not exceed the dosages recommended by the manufacturer. Get medical clearance from your doctor before taking supplements.
Sage, Lemon Balm and Rosemary
A 2006 article in the journal "Current Pharmaceutical Design," by D.O. Kennedy, summarizes the research on three European herbs with the potential to interact with the cholinergic system, a system of nerve cells that plays an important role in cognition and memory. Sage is traditionally used for anxiety, nervousness, mental confusion and memory impairment. Studies of sage in healthy adults found that those who were given single doses of the herb showed significant improvement in word recall and mood. Lemon balm is an herbal remedy for excitability, anxiety and stress. Patients with dementia who were given lemon balm demonstrated improved cognition and a reduction in agitation. Rosemary, used in European herbal traditions for nervous tension and memory problems, was found to reduce anxiety in volunteers and increase the speed at which they computed mathematical problems. More research is necessary before sage, lemon balm or rosemary can be widely recommended as brain supplements. Talk to your doctor to determine if any of these herbs would be beneficial for you.
Amino Acid Supplements
"The Mood Cure," a book by nutritional psychologist Julia Ross, states that certain cognitive problems and negative mood states can be helped by amino acid supplements. For example, she writes that tryptophan or 5-HTP may help address depression, that tyrosine may be helpful in mood states characterized by apathy and that phenylalanine may help those who are oversensitive. Ask a qualified health care provider before adding amino acids to your daily regimen.