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Five Nutrients to Help Keep Your Brain Sharp

As I try to help my son with his algebra, I was shocked at how much I have forgotten. Math was my best subject! That’s when I realized I needed to care for my brain.  It is as much a part of my health as everything else. As we age, our mental sharpness tends to decline. Like the rest of your body, the brain needs nutrition to stay healthy. Here is a list of nutrients you should be considering in your diet to help you look 4 moves ahead on the chess board or to just remember where you set your keys.

  1. Acetyl L-Carnitine - This amino acid is becoming more and more popular for its assistance in brain function. It is a micronutrient of L-Carnitine and readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, thus energizing and feeding the brain more efficiently. Acetyl L-Carnitine also increases blood flow to the brain. Studies show that Acetyl L-Carnitine can reduce mental fatigue and enhance cognitive function1 and even be a protectant from neuroinflammation2.  A side effect is it helps burn fat.
  2. Omega 3 Fatty AcidsOmega 3 is a great all-around supplement. It’s good for your skin, hair, blood, heart and yes, even your brain. If fish is not a regular part of your diet, consider supplementing this nutrient. Unlike omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids, Omega 3 is not produced by the body and your brain is 8% Omega 3 fatty acids. It is the building block for roughly 100 billion neurons. The DHA and EPA in Omega 3 assists the brain in many ways including, function and protection from neuroinflammation and oxidative damage. If you don’t eat fish and/or you’re a vegetarian, flax seed oil is a great alternative source.
  3. Phosphatidylserine (PS) PS comes from an unusual array of foods. Bovine brain, Atlantic mackerel, chicken heart and chicken liver to name a few. Most PS supplements are derived from soy or cabbage. PS provides nutrition for the maintenance of cellular functions, primarily in the brain. Studies have shown that PS can improve memory function in the elderly. Although it’s not as common of a supplement as omega 3 fatty acids, it’s definitely worth considering.
  4. Dimethylethanolamine (DMAE) – DMAE is a classic brain supplement and inexpensive. The best food sources are sardines and anchovies. DMAE supports healthy levels of acetylcholine in the brain, which plays a crucial role in higher cognitive functions such as memory and learning. Therefore, DMAE may be helpful in maintaining healthy memory and cognitive capacity. It has also been shown to support healthy energy levels.
  5. Ginkgo Biloba - This herb is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years. It assists blood flow to the brain and to the arms and legs by regulating the tone and elasticity of blood vessels, from the largest arteries to the tiniest capillaries. Studies show that Ginkgo Biloba is effective for treating BPSD, behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.5

 

There are a handful of others like bacopa monnieri, s-adenosyl methionine and rhodiola rosea, but they tend to be harder to find and the list above is plenty thorough. Please keep in mind (pardon the pun) that brain nutrition is not everything. Just like the rest of your body, brain exercise is also a key component. Play chess and soduko. Learn a new language. Learn new math or in my case, relearn math you have forgotten. Read! Just like cross training, keep that brain working in ways that are new.

 

One last shameless plug. The nutrients mentioned in this article , other than Omega 3, can all be found in Healthy Brain, a supplement sold by Supplement Spot.

 

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References:

  1. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/6/1738.abstract
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28822835
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262608/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2966935/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28931444

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