An unfortunate truth about getting older is that the brain ages along with the rest of the body. Just as it may not be as easy to go for a long run or lift a heavy object as it was in our younger years, it may also be more difficult to remember where we left the car keys or finish the Sunday crossword. What can we do? So far, science hasn’t proven a way to stop this gradual decline in memory and cognition. But, a significant amount of research has been dedicated to studying why it happens, on the cellular and molecular levels, giving us clues to which behaviors and nutrients are likely to slow or speed up these processes.
The best thing we can do to protect the longevity of our minds is not dissimilar from the best thing we can do to protect the longevity of our bodies. It turns out, regular exercise, socialization, healthy sleep habits, and a clean, nutritious diet are really important for keeping both your mind and body from aging too quickly.
In particular, the MIND diet has gained clout in the last few years for the benefits it can provide the aging brain. MIND stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”. The Mediterranean diet has been long respected for promoting longevity, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a more recent invention meant to specifically support the heart. Researchers analyzed these two healthy diets and found some common threads that would best support the protection of memory and cognition. Read more about the MIND diet in the blog post linked here.
What about supplements for brain support?
None of us are perfect. Even when we try to balance our meals and adhere carefully to a healthy diet, there are bound to be some nutritional gaps here and there. In addition, there are some nutrients whose benefits are dose dependent, and getting enough from the diet is difficult. If you’re looking for specific, supplemental support to protect your memory, cognition, and mental health, here are our top 5 recommendations:
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are classified as n-3 (omega-3) or n-6 (omega-6) depending on the placement of the first double bond in the molecule. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are important for the strength and integrity of cell membranes. EPA and DHA are the omega-3s found most concentrated in synaptic membranes in the brain and in the retina of the eye . DHA, specifically, is essential for the maintenance of normal brain function in adults. It is absorbed by the brain in preference to other fatty acids and the turnover of DHA in the brain is very fast . This means we need regular intake, rather than relying on a storage system. Fish and fish oil are the only common dietary sources of these powerful nutrients. The body can transform some other omega-3s into EPA and DHA, but the conversion is very inefficient.
Decreases in DHA in the brain are associated with cognitive decline during aging . However, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating cognitive longevity provided by a healthy omega-3 fatty acid intake . In fact, one particular study showed that elderly subjects who consumed fish or seafood even once per week exhibited a significantly lower risk of developing dementia in the seven-year follow-up period . Unfortunately, most people in the US do not consume the recommended amounts of fatty fish to get the EPA and DHA they require from their diets .
Luckily, EPA and DHA can now be consumed in a supplement, like Metabolic Maintenance®’s Mega Omega™ Extra Strength. With a daily omega-3 dietary supplement, you can worry less about how much fatty fish you’re eating, while still offering natural protection to your brain and vision. Aside from these effects, DHA and EPA support cardiovascular health, immune and inflammatory health, healthy insulin and glucose metabolism, and a healthy lipid profile.
It has been suggested that B-vitamins may have a positive effect on cognitive functions due to their role in the conversion (and subsequent reduction) of homocysteine . Homocysteine build up is a known factor in cognitive decline due to aging .
Evidence of this effect includes data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of participants aged 50–70 years. Participants who took a daily folate (vitamin B-9) supplement actually improved on cognitive function tests in domains that otherwise tend to decline with age . Other clinical trials have demonstrated that B-complex supplementation for two years could reduce the average brain atrophy rate, and improve both global cognition and memory in participants over 70 [6,7]. The Singapore Chinese Health Study showed that higher dietary intakes of riboflavin (vitamin B-2) and folate in midlife were associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in later life .
Together, these findings support the use of B-vitamin supplements, not just relying on a diet containing B-vitamins. Some B-vitamins, and folate in particular, are less bioavailable from food sources than they are when taken as a dietary supplement. B-complex vitamins containing active L-methylfolate are a superior choice, as approximately half of the global population cannot properly process folic acid due to genetic and epigenetic differences. Metabolic Maintenance® goes the extra mile to provide this superior form of folate in our B-vitamin-containing formulas. Read more about the benefits of L-methylfolate here.
Choline is an essential nutrient in the human body that has been shown to exert neuroprotective effects . Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamine, and noradrenaline, as well as two structural components of cell membranes . Therefore, consuming choline helps to maintain both healthy brain signalling and the structural integrity of brain cells. When oxidized, choline also participates in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine . As mentioned above, homocysteine build up has been linked to cognitive impairment, and is a known risk factor in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease .
Choline may do more than just protect healthy brain function, however. In a study of healthy individuals, higher choline intake was related to better cognitive performance, providing evidence that it may actually give the brain a boost .
Choline can be found in foods such as eggs, animal flesh, and dairy. Even though these foods are fairly common, it is estimated that at least 75% of Americans are not consuming the recommended daily amount . More unfortunate still, a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that only 4% of men and 2% of women over 71 were consuming an adequate level of choline daily . As older adults, this portion of the population may benefit the most from consuming more neuroprotective nutrition.
Fortunately, choline-containing supplements do exist on the market. Metabolic Maintenance® offers a brain-supportive blend called Brain Cell Support™. It contains a dietary source of choline called Cognizin® citicoline. Citicoline quickly breaks down into choline and cytidine when consumed. Cognizin® brand citicoline, specifically, has been shown to increase cellular synthesis and brain energy in middle-aged adults . Cognizin® has also been suggested to help with focus, motor speed, and attention [12,13].
Among other brain-boosting nutrients, Brain Cell Support™ also contains DMAE, which crosses the blood-brain barrier and is a precursor for choline. DMAE has shown positive results in studies involving a variety of cognitive and disruptive disorders, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and memory studies . DMAE may also aid in the ability to concentrate, recall memories (especially short-term memories), focus, maintain mental clarity, and improve sleep patterns in otherwise healthy adults .
Clinical studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to a significantly increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease . The importance of vitamin D for numerous functions in the body (including bone health, immune health, cardiovascular health) is not new news. More recently, however, have been the discoveries of vitamin D receptors and vitamin D-metabolizing enzymes in the central nervous system . Calcitriol (the active vitamin D hormone) affects numerous neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors, which supports its relevance to mental health issues. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence showing suboptimal vitamin D levels in many patients with depressive disorders . However, and yet again, we see nearly half of all adults in the US living with insufficient vitamin D levels .
It is true that vitamin D is not technically essential, as our bodies can make it when exposed to unfiltered sunlight for adequate amounts of time. However, common modern work and school schedules keep many of us indoors during prime vitamin D-making hours. Add to that factor cold climate lifestyles where outdoor time is spent bundled up, and preventative measures against the very real threats of sun damage to skin, it makes sense that many of us are vitamin D deficient. Luckily, once again, vitamin D can be supplemented orally. Metabolic Maintenance® offers vitamin D as a stand alone nutrient in multiple dosing options to fit your individual needs. It can also be found in several of our multivitamin formulas.
Curcumin is a chemical compound found in turmeric, responsible for both turmeric’s golden color and its numerous health benefits. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects . As a popular ingredient in Indian curries and many other Asian dishes, curcumin from turmeric has been credited as a possible reason that Alzheimer’s Disease rates are so low in India. A large population-based study found that healthy, elderly Asian people who frequently consumed curcumin-rich curries scored significantly better on tests of cognitive function than those whose diets did not include much curry . Unfortunately, somewhere between 40-85% of an oral dose of natural curcumin, on average, passes through the gastrointestinal system unchanged, as it is insoluble, and most of what is absorbed breaks down rapidly in the small intestine and liver. Researchers point out that even with fascinating discoveries about curcumin’s benefits, the poor bioavailability of this powerful phytochemical may limit the strength of the effects measured in observational studies .
Fortunately, turmeric-containing foods need not be your only source of curcumin. It can be isolated and produced as a supplement in a way that makes it more bioavailable upon consumption. Metabolic Maintenance® offers a product called Curcumin + C, which combines Longvida® Optimized Curcumin with vitamin C for maximum absorption and benefit. Curcumin and vitamin C are complementary antioxidants for both brain and body health.
Longvida® curcumin employs Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle Technology™ (SLCP™), a coating that surrounds free curcumin particles in a lipophilic (fat-soluble) layer that protects it from the acidic conditions of the stomach. The coating begins to dissolve in the gastrointestinal tract so that curcumin can be absorbed by the small intestine, and then delivered by the bloodstream to its target tissues.
Once circulating the body and brain, antioxidants curcumin and vitamin C can work within cells to protect against, or even reverse, damage caused by free radicals . The combination of curcumin and vitamin C has more powerful antioxidant and antifungal properties than either supplement alone .
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- Sheng, Li-Ting, et al. “Association between dietary intakes of B vitamins in midlife and cognitive impairment in late-life: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.” The Journals of Gerontology: Series A 75.6 (2020): 1222-1227.
- Blusztajn JK, Slack BE, Mellott TJ. Neuroprotective Actions of Dietary Choline. Nutrients. 2017; 9(8):815. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080815
- Poly, Coreyann, et al. “The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 94.6 (2011): 1584-1591.
- Silveri, M. M., et al. “Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy.” NMR in Biomedicine: An International Journal Devoted to the Development and Application of Magnetic Resonance In vivo 21.10 (2008): 1066-1075.
- McGlade, Erin, et al. “Improved attentional performance following citicoline administration in healthy adult women.” Food and Nutrition Sciences 3.06 (2012): 769.
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