Key Vitamins And Nutrients For Optimal Brain Health

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Staying mentally active, being sociable, eating a Mediterranean diet, and exercising regularly are all-important for maintaining your gray matter in tip-top condition (1). However, everyone wants a healthy memory, from students cramming for exams, to business people wanting to remain sharp and ahead of their competition, to older people who fear the onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease. One way of ensuring that you remain healthy in body and mind, is through taking dietary supplements. Yet, there are a flood of brain booster formulas hitting the market. Not only can this become overwhelming, but in many cases, the consumer is duped by inferior products that promise to be one-size-fits-all solutions for all problems. Therefore, it is important to identify the nootropics, meaning the substances that could improve your brainpower by enhancing its performance.

1. Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa Monnieri PlantBacopa monnieri is a herb that is useful in improving learning and in recalling information freely. There are indications that this substance could be used as a memory enhancer (2). It may also improve cognition and reduce anxiety. In addition, Bacopa monnieri acts with dopamine and the serotonergic system to enhance neuron communication. In fact, this substance helps the growth of nerve endings, enhancing the rate at which the nervous system communicates.  Furthermore, this herb hinders the release of inflammatory cytokines from microglial cells, but also the enzymes that are linked to inflammation in the brain (3). Research studies reflect some evidence that this herb is able to enhance memory performance (4). However, it should be noted that Bacopa monnieri is an adaptogen. This implies that, after taking this substance, motivation for work may be reduced. This substance should therefore be combined with a stimulant.

Take Home Note:
Can Bacopa monnieri enhance memory? Studies indicate a possible link between this herb and memory enhancement in people both young and old. However, further studies are needed to explore this link of cognitive performance and the use of this supplement. Nevertheless, this substance could be a useful contender to add to your daily diet if you are seeking enhanced cognitive performance.

2. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba LeavesGinkgo biloba comes from the ginkgo tree. This substance is used to treat high blood pressure, tinnitus, altitude sickness, macular degeneration, as well as menopause-related cognitive decline. However, the most attractive use is associated with the enhancement of memory and reduction of anxiety. The results from studies show that the improvement is mostly modest, but there is a measurable change in, for example, dementia cases (5). However, some studies did not find that the substance made a difference to  Alzheimer’s patients (6).  It should also be remembered that Ginkgo biloba has side-effects, especially in people with blood circulation disorders, as well as those on blood thinners. Side-effects include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, and headaches. If there is bleeding, especially when consuming a spice such as ginger, the substance should be halted. Pregnant and nursing mothers should not take this supplement.

Take Home Note:
Ginkgo biloba is an important substance for memory enhancement, although clinical studies are lacking or incomplete − more research is needed. Nonetheless, some studies are indicating a clear support for the use of ginkgo biloba for dementia patients. Thus, it could be worth taking this substance routinely.

3. DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol)

Photo of Fresh SardinesDMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) is produced in the brain, but can also be sourced from sardines and anchovies. This substance has the function to assist nerves to communicate with each other. Plus, it is needed by the neurotransmitter choline to help choline be released into the body, so the brain can function smoothly.

It also raises acetylcholine levels, a compound involved with memory.  In addition, this substance acts as an antioxidant, shielding neurons from the harmful effects of oxidation.

Take Home Note:
Research is lacking on DMAE, which seems a potential memory-enhancement substance. More clinical studies must be conducted. The potential emerging from the pilot studies indicates that it also protects the brain cells. Consider taking it to enhance your memory.

4. B Group Vitamins

B vitamins aid the production of brain chemicals such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. In addition, these vitamins help with the brain’s function and mental sharpness.

  • Vitamin B6

Photo of Fresh CauliflowerVitamin B6 is found in cauliflower, garlic, tuna, kale, and cranberries, aiding the exchange of 5-hydroxy-tryptophan to serotonin, in the course of producing dopamine. For optimal health, 10 micrograms is needed daily. Vitamin B6 aids in the control of binding of neurotransmitters as they leap across neuron pathways.

  • Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is an essential vitamin. It may be sourced from dark green, leafy vegetables, liver, as well as beans, fruit, lentils, and whole-wheat cereals. The daily recommended dosage in the United States is 400 micrograms. However, the daily diet may not yield enough of this vitamin, requiring supplementation. Folic acid aids with early brain development, therefore it is crucial that pregnant women supplement their intake of this vitamin. Vitamin B9 is also used to treat anaemia, and it is needed to metabolize amino acids to allow for cell division (7). If there are low levels of folate and high levels of homocysteine, this can lead to a stroke or heart disease.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is mostly found in meat. This can be a problem for vegans and vegetarians. A lack of this vitamin could lead to memory loss, low moods, mental slowness, and even nerve damage. It is best to consume 100 micrograms daily. This vitamin helps with delaying brain aging, and it can increase total levels of homocysteine (8).

Take Home Note:
The B-group vitamins help with the production of chemicals in the brain, while protecting nerve endings. Even in a healthy balanced diet, sufficient vitamin B12 is not always consumed. Therefore, it is best to consult a professional nutritionist to check whether you are taking the right amount of B vitamins daily to maintain healthy brain functioning.

5. Vitamin E

Photo of AlmondsVitamin E can be found in almonds, sunflower oil, whole-grain flour, and hazelnuts. A deficiency is rare, except for people on a low-fat diet. More importantly, people with heart problems or on blood thinners should not exceed 1,000IU daily. Still, vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, protects the brain by removing free radicals. In fact, research has indicated that this vitamin can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and certainly delay the progress of this disease. Also, this vitamin can enhance cognitive functioning, preventing the progression of dementia (9).

Take Home Note:
The research into the benefits of vitamin E has shown that it can delay and prevent damage to the brain. You should be able to get your daily intake from eating healthily. If, however, you are in doubt, ask a professional nutritionist to assess you.

Are Brain Boosters Sufficient To Enhance Cognitive Function?

Today’s diet is generally poor, lacking in key vitamins and nutrients for correct brain-cell functioning. A lack of these key nutrients and vitamins can lead to health problems; also to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Apart from this, most people wish to preserve or enhance intellectual functioning. Using a supplement that is designed to provide you with protection against free radicals and decrease any inflammation in the cerebral area is important, not just for enhanced memory, but also for long-term health. Consulting a healthcare professional and doing some simple research should lead to the purchase of the best quality product.

Our Ultimate Take Home Message

The bottom line is that diet impacts on health; however so too does genetics amongst other factors. Ensuring that the right vitamins and nutrients are ingested may prevent many problems associated with memory loss (10). Taking a supplement to prevent or reduce memory loss, is a good precaution.

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