You may be taking proactive steps to support your body’s health, but are you taking similar steps to sustain your brain? After all, your brain is the epicenter of your consciousness – thinking, reacting, feeling and remembering. It governs virtually every bodily process that is essential to life. When it comes to supporting brain health, the old adage is true: it’s better late than never. There’s no time like the present to start supporting your brain.
The Key to Kick-starting Brain Health
The human brain is an immensely complex and amazing organ. Addressing its nutritional needs starts with neurons – all 100 billion of them. Good nutrition doesn’t just impact your brain’s buzzing network of neurons; it also plays a significant role in the production of neurotransmitters – chemical messengers responsible for cell-to-cell communication.
The importance of good nutrition on overall health is well-known and accepted; however, the effects of good nutrition on the brain and more specifically, how it impacts function, has captured researchers’ attention in recent years. This is especially the case in light of efforts to help address challenges associated with society’s aging population. Research suggests that age-related cognitive decline could be preventable in varying degrees, and highlights nutrition as an essential element to overall brain health.1,2,3 Brain-boosting nutrients can be consumed in two ways: through the foods we eat, and when necessary, through supplements we can take when food alone is not sufficient enough to boost nutrient levels.
Food for Thought: Breaking Down Brain-boosting Nutrients
What exactly are the nutrients that we need to ingest to positively impact brain health? Here is a breakdown of the best nutrients to seek out:
Citicoline: Referred to by some scientists as a “brain nutrient,” citicoline is a critical component when it comes to maintaining optimal brain health and function. While the brain does produce citicoline naturally as a mechanism to ward off disease and combat factors that negatively affect the brain, studies show that supplementation improves these efforts greatly.
The B-Vitamin Family: B-Vitamins, like thiamin, riboflavin, B12, folic acid and niacin, are essential for the regulation of the brain and nervous system and the preservation of their functions. Luckily, the spectrum of B-Vitamins can be found in a wide variety of foods, including fruits, leafy vegetables, meats and whole grains.
Healthy Fats: Studies have shown that “healthy” fats, like the polyunsaturated fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – commonly known as omega-3 – may have cognitive benefits due to the influence it exerts on neural function. Significant levels of DHA and other healthy fats can be found in fish (like tuna and salmon) and nuts. In fact, there is some evidence and a good rationale, for a positive synergy between citicoline and the omega-3 fatty acids for improving mood.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants are key players in protecting the body from oxidative stressors like free radicals that can damage unstable molecules. Just like they protect other systems in the body, antioxidants like glutathione, vitamin E and C support and protect the brain’s cells and tissues from oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals.
When Food Is Not Enough: A Case for Science-backed Supplementation
Research-backed supplementation is an alternative measure to consider when you’re looking to raise levels of specific nutrients due to a deficiency or when significant levels are not found in food.
Citicoline is an excellent example of a nutrient that is imperative for a well-functioning brain, but not found in adequate levels in food. Citicoline can help increase brain energy and function through raising neurotransmitter levels and protecting brain cell membranes against oxidative damage. In addition, two separate studies on Cognizin® Citicoline conducted by researchers from the University of Utah’s Brain Institute found that supplementation resulted in increased memory and concentration in participants. One study of a group of elderly subjects who exhibited memory deficits (without dementia) found that, after a four-week administration of Cognizin® Citicoline (1,000mg and 500 mg), memory in free recall tasks and word recall improved significantly. A separate study of healthy adult women, aged 40-60, found that, after administration of either 250mg or 500 mg of Cognizin® Citicoline, cognitive scores on attention and performance improved. 4, 5
A Brain-Boosting Lifestyle
Along with maintaining adequate levels of key brain-boosting nutrients, there are many lifestyle factors that can impact the brain:
Staying Active: Exercise, along with other types of physical activity, is a key factor in preventing age-related cognitive decline. Even better, research suggests exercise can improve your cognitive function in a variety of short- and long-term ways, including stress management, memory, efficiency and focus.6
Being Social: Recent studies have highlighted the importance of staying cognitively, as well as socially, engaged in healthy living. Social interaction is an effective way to promote brain vitality. Not only do interpersonal relationships provide a foundation for emotional support, studies suggest that those who are socially active have a lower risk of developing dementia.7
Never Underestimating the Power of Sleep: Research suggests that sleep can clear the mind both literally and figuratively. The restorative qualities of sufficient time asleep are important to support the mechanisms required for optimal reasoning, problem-solving and focusing, among others.8 Simply put, don’t skimp on the ZZZs – aim for 7-8 hours per night.
You don’t need to wait for warning signs to be proactive about your brain health. At any age, you can start now and take the steps to support and protect your cognitive function (and overall health) today – your brain will thank you later.
1. Andrade, C. and Radhakrishnan, R. The prevention and treatment of cognitive decline and dementia: An overview of recent research on experimental treatments. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2009 Jan-Mar; 51(1): 12–25.
2. National Institute on Aging. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know? So, What Can You Do? 2015.
3. National Institute on Aging. Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: What Do We Know? The Search for Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies. 2015.
4. McGlade E. et al., Improved Attentional Performance Following Citicoline Administration in Healthy Adult Women Food and Nutrition Sciences. 2012; 3:769-773.
5. Silveri MM et al., Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NMR Biomed. 2008; 21(10): 1066-75.
6. Erickson, Kirk I. et al. Physical activity, brain, and cognition. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2015; 4:27–32.
7. Rosebud O. P et al. Risk and protective factors for cognitive impairment in persons aged 85 years and older. Neurology. 2015; 10.1212.
8. Xie, L. et al. Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain. Science. 2013; 342(6156): 10.1126.
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