Nutrients, foods and mental exercises to keep your brain bright and healthy

by Lorna Vanderhaeghe

The human brain is the most complex organ in the body. It produces our every thought, action, memory, feeling and experience. Until recently, it was thought that if those nerve cells were damaged, they could not be repaired. Now we now know the brain has a remarkable capacity to regenerate. More than 15 percent of those living with Alzheimer’s in North America are under the age of 65, so we no longer see this as simply a disease of aging. Women make up more than 72 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease, and one in 10 adults will develop dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.” One of the most promising areas of research in the improvement of dementia is in the area of nutritional supplements.

1: Super Brain Nutrients found in Brainsmart

This is the first time in history that we have seen more people over the age of 50 than under 50 years old and we need to start early to improve brain function. We are living longer but dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are common. Fifteen percent of those suffering dementia are under the age of 65 so we need to start taking brain nutrients today. The following “super brain nutrients” can help fight the effects of dementia and keep the brain healthy.

Acetyl-L-carnitine: Acetyl-L-carnitine is a powerful memory booster. Extensive research shows it can protect brain cells, restore flagging energy, stimulate brain cells and prompt them to grow new connections to other neurons. But where acetyl-L-carnitine is most important is in combating brain aging and dementia. Studies of Alzheimer’s sufferers have reported improvements in memory compared to patients receiving placebo. One study showed that when acetyl-L-carnitine was added to the typical drugs for Alzheimer’s, a variety of functional and behavioral parameters were improved by over 50 percent when compared to the drugs alone. Stanford University researchers stated that acetyl-L-carnitine slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Double-blind, placebo controlled studies using acetyl-L-carnitine in 500 mg to 2000 mg doses for three months showed a significant improvement in symptoms and the longer the nutrient was taken, the better the improvements. Other studies showed acetyl-L-carnitine improved hearing, increased energy, improved age-related macular degeneration of the eyes, improved heart function and reduction of fatigue. Acetyl-L-carnitine is also an important nutrient in the treatment of stroke victims, improving memory, task performance and cognition during recovery especially when combined with blueberry extract. A 500 mg dose with breakfast in the morning can ‘jumpstart’ the brain, improving mental clarity, spatial learning and energy.

Alpha-lipoic acid: Acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid in combination are known as the dynamic duo in anti-aging compounds today. Found in every cell in the body, alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help fight off infection and disease, protect organs from damage, and prevent premature aging. Alpha lipoic acid also helps turn glucose into energy in the cells, making it an important treatment for diabetes and pre-diabetes. It is also the only recognized natural treatment to relieve painful diabetic neuropathy. Alpha lipoic acid has also been studied for post-stroke treatment due to its protective effect on brain and nervous tissue. Diabetes type 3 is a newly discovered form of brain diabetes causing increased brain aging. The combination of acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha lipoic acid are superstars at improving overall brain function, thereby reducing memory decline.

Blueberry extract: Blueberries became news when old rats that were fed blueberries became young again. Now, scientists have found that blueberry extract improves memory in humans as well. Research showed that the group taking blueberry had a significant improvement in learning and memory tests. Twelve weeks of daily blueberry consumption improved the scores of two different cognitive tests involving memory in older adults. The study’s authors suggested that blueberries could slow or postpone the onset of age-related memory problems. In another study involving 48 obese participants with pre-diabetes, the consumption of blueberries for eight weeks lowered blood pressure and reduced bad LDL cholesterol.

Curcumin: Curcumin is the “brain protector.” The yellow pigment in turmeric, curcumin was originally researched for Alzheimer’s disease after studies showed a much lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s in India than in North America. Researchers investigated the association between curry consumption and cognitive level in 1010 Asians between 60 and 93 years of age. They found that those who ate curried foods performed better on a standard test (MMSE) of cognitive function than those who never or rarely ate curry. The process by which Alzheimer’s disease degrades the nerve cells in the brain is through inflammation in glial cells in the brain plus the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, metal toxicity and oxidative damage. Several studies have found that curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory in the brain and that it can break down plaques, improve memory and memory decline and is a powerful antioxidant. The research will continue, but it is compelling enough at this point to add curcumin to your brain-protecting program.

2: Super Brain Foods

What we eat also plays a role in our overall brain power. Some foods just stand out when it comes to their powerful brain effects.

Blueberries: As mentioned, blueberries improve memory, cognition and motor skills. Blueberries not only slow age-related brain decline but also reverse and improve memory. Add one cup of fresh or frozen blueberries to your daily diet.
Fish: Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like wild salmon, sardines and herring are essential for brain function. Numerous studies have shown that eating about four ounces of wild salmon two to three times per week significantly reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Remember that wild is best.
Green tea: Organic green tea is another brain-boosting food. Drinking two cups of organic green tea per day has been shown to lower the risk of cognitive impairment in older adults and protect you from Parkinson’s and other age-related brain disorders. Make sure it is organic to avoid any fungicides used in the processing.
Avocados: Avocados are almost as powerful as blueberries in protecting the brain. The wonderful monounsaturated fats in avocado promote healthier blood flow in the brain.

3: Brain Games

“Use it or lose it” is a very important adage when it comes to brain health. Play games like Scrabble, chess or cards, or learn a new language. Download the “Words with Friends” app on your iPhone or iPad or play through Facebook. Playing games that require you to remember words, spell, do calculations or perform new thought patterns keeps those neural networks strong. Start a brain-boosting program today, and incorporate super brain nutrients and foods into your daily diet to enjoy the later years of your long life with wellness and mental clarity.

from Hormone Help Issue 39