Revealed: The Top 10 Supplements For Brain Health and Cognitive Function
From the entrepreneur who wants to get ahead to the student who needs to pass exams, focus and memory are, undoubtedly, the keys to success. But whenever we forget something, can it be considered memory loss? Or simply a lack of energy? Or are we bombarded with so much information on a daily basis that we just cannot remember it all? Unfortunately, science still cannot answer these questions. The good news, however, is that scientists do feel that they are now in a better position than ever to identify nutritional supplements that help focus and improve memory. Who knows, additional brain power could be as close as your local supplement store. Below, we take a look at the top 10 supplements for brain health as follows:
Most people are aware of the energy boosting properties of caffeine, which, perhaps, explains why it is often added to brain supplements and energy drinks. However, researchers have recently found out that caffeine can enhance memory retention for upwards of 24 hours.
Caffeine is now taken to improve focus, productivity, and memory. But too much of it can also cause anxiety symptoms. So if you are prone to anxiety attacks, try other memory boosters that listed below.
2. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba is, arguably, one of the most popular herbal remedies taken for memory enhancement. In fact, its effects on memory are so well known that people have been known to spend more than $300 million each year on related supplements.
Studies have shown that ginkgo biloba improves the quality of life and memory for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Although more research is needed to establish how effective it is on healthy adults, it is, nonetheless, thought to benefit alertness, mood, and mental ability by increasing blood flow to the brain.
Acetyl-l-carnitine is an amino acid that is involved in the creation of acetylcholine- a neurotransmitter that is responsible for various brain functions such as learning and memory. It is taken to improve mental clarity, focus, mood, and alertness, and also acts as potent antioxidant by preventing free-radical damage to the brain. Research shows that ALC positively affects Alzheimer’s patients with memory problems by slowing the progress of the disease. So, if Alzheimer’s is a concern, consider ALC supplements.
Variously referred to as Panax or Asian ginseng, this herb is one of the most talked about plants on the globe. In fact, traditional Chinese medicine refers to it as the "elixir of life" and claims that it provides longevity, wisdom, and strength. Often paired with ginkgo biloba, ginseng also fights fatigue with small group studies showing that it can energize as well as protect the brain. In addition, it improves mental performance and concentration and prevents memory loss. If you wish to boost the short-term memory of ADHD and stroke patients, this may be a good herb.
5. B Vitamins
These are the precursors to important brain chemicals such as epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine so it follows that they should be helpful with cognitive function. Interestingly, each type of B vitamin plays a different but crucial role. For instance, vitamin B12 regulates myelin which covers and insulates nerve fibers (a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to mental slowness, memory loss, nerve damage, and low moods); vitamin B6 contributes to the production of both dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters that increase alertness and enhance mood); and vitamin B9 (Folic acid) is used for memory and focus.
Since B vitamins are also used in the conversion of food to fuel, they are a wise addition to any supplement regimen.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These essential fatty acids are widely acclaimed for their benefits to heart health yet they also contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)- a vital structural component of the brain. DHA plays an important role in the development of a child’s nervous system as well as shielding the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, and age-related decline. If you experience a DHA deficiency, your brain is likely to shrink and consequently suffer from cognitive impairments.
Used to mitigate the symptoms of ADHD in children, Omega-3’s can easily be added to one’s diet by eating fatty fish e.g. salmon, and walnuts.
7. Phosphatidylserine (PS)
PS is a fatty substance surrounding the cells (phospholipid) and which is found in the cell membranes of the brain. It acts as a gatekeeper i.e. regulates the waste leaving and the nutrients entering the brain. Research shows that this phospholipid may help replace damaged neurons and maintain memory function as it is thought to reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction and dementia among the elderly. Moreover, it can restore and prevent memory loss among the middle-aged. For children, it boosts learning and attention as well as averts behavioral problems.
While phosphatidylserine is generally appropriate for all ages, it can affect how certain prescriptions work. It is thus advisable to consult your doctor before taking this supplement, especially if you are taking performance-enhancing drugs, anti-inflammatory medicine, or blood thinners.
8. Huperzine A
Huperzine A is derived from Chinese moss and is approved for the treatment of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s in China. It works by blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine, a crucial neurotransmitter for proper brain function. Increased acetylcholine levels in the bloodstream enhance memory and learning.
Huperzine A also protects against age-induced cognitive decline, increases alertness, and boosts energy. On the downside, it can cause side effects such as dizziness, cramps, and diarrhea so consult your doctor before taking related supplements.
9. Bacopa Monnieri
This traditional Indian (Ayurvedic) herb has been used as a memory booster for over 3,000 years and according to legend, ancient scholars used it to memorize scriptures and lengthy hymns. Today, it serves as a tonic to enhance concentration, learning, and memory as well as in the treatment of respiratory, digestive, and heart problems.
10. Vitamin E
Most people are familiar with the ubiquitous form of vitamin E- alpha-tocopherol-, but the lesser known form- gamma-tocopherol- is a highly effective antioxidant that guards the brain against free radicals. Research also shows that vitamin E can also delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, with some scholars even going as far as to suggest that its protective function it can prevent the disease from occurring to begin with. A word of caution though- there is an increased risk of death for unhealthy people who take high doses of vitamin E so ensure that you seek your doctor’s counsel before taking related supplements.