9 of the Best Brain Supplements

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So now that you’re training your brain, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising, are there any brain supplements to consider to go along with your balanced diet? YEP

DHA
Since the brain is about 60% fat, this is probably the most important brain supplement you can take. We have already covered this, if you missed it… here’s a link.
Article: Are You a Fat Head?

 

Vitamin D
A Japanese study on 527 municipal employees aged 21 to 67 found that during the fall and winter, those who had vitamin D levels in the highest quartile, were 49 percent less likely to have depression. Another study by USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University looked at 318 people with an average age of 73 over 4 years. Participants who were deficient in Vitamin D were twice as like to have dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.

 

 photo by tshein

Vitamin B-12
An interesting study conducted on people who were all in the “normal” range for Vitamin B-12 in their bodies, found that those who were on the low end of “normal” had a sixfold greater brain volume loss than those on the high end of “normal”. We are not even talking deficient… that’s pretty profound. In addition, a 2nd study found that high doses of B6, B12, and folate reduced brain shrinkage by an average of 30% and up to 53% for those with the highest levels of homocysteine before the 2 year study started. High levels of homocysteine and Alzheimer’s are linked, and B vitamins are known to reduce homocysteine.

 

Coconut Oil
There is a lot of work that needs to be done on this yet, but it is promising. Glucose is the main energy source for the brain, but researchers think that people with Alzheimer’s disease have a decreased ability to use the glucose. MCT (medium chain triglycerides), like those found in coconut oil, are another fuel source for the brain in the form of ketone bodies. Anyone who has been on a low-carb diet has probably heard about ketosis, where your body will produce ketone bodies in response to a lack of glucose. One of the studies I found that shocked me, showed that if the ketones are available, the brain will use them and lower the amount of glucose it uses… this is the kicker… it will do that even when a normal amount of glucose is available.

If this interests you, then I encourage you to check out this article.

Alpha-GPC
Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter that plays a key role in cognition, as well as sleep and muscle control. Like most things, it seems acetylcholine decreases with age. Alpha-GPC, which found in human breast milk, is a precursor to acetylcholine. Studies looking at the cognitive benefits of Alpha-GPC in regards to stroke, ischemic attacks, and dementia have been both positive and safe.

Astaxanthin
What do salmon, shrimp, lobsters, flamingos, and you have in common, if you know what’s good for you? All three eat healthy amounts of astaxanthin… they turn a bit pink, but you won’t. Astaxanthin is an extremely powerful antioxidant with a growing pile of research behind it. Because astaxanthin works its way into nearly every cell in the body, I guess it’s not surprising to see research in so many areas… from the heart, to the skin, to the joints, to the eyes, and yes the brain. In a 12 week study in Japan, researchers found that taking astaxanthin reduced the amount of phospholipid hydroperoxides (PLOOH) found in red blood cells. High levels of PLOOH are associated with dementia. A separate study on rats (not humans) showed an increase in intelligence. Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier, which is great, considering our brains are not immune to oxidative stress and inflammation.

Phosphatidylserine
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid that helps by stimulating the production of acetylcholine and by boosting glucose metabolism in the brain. PS is found in membranes of every cell in your body, and it helps each cell move nutrients, and waste in and out.
There have been over 60 positive PS studies on age related cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s… but what about healthy folks just looking to improve or an edge? When we talk about brain performance, we have to look at everything, including stress and mood. One study found that PS blunted the release of cortisol, our stress hormone, while the second study showed that people actually felt less stress and their moods where improved. Both of those studies were conducted on young healthy adults.

Huperzine A
This comes from the Chinese club moss, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to enhance memory. Huperzine A has been shown to boost and maintain healthy levels of acetylcholine. A small 4 week study done on junior high students in China reported improved learning and memory.

Vinpocetine
This little periwinkle plant part has been shown to increase blood flow and oxygen utilization in the brain. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of it, but it’s very popular in Japan and Europe where it’s only available by prescription.

There you have it… this is not a complete list of brain supplements, but it’s a good start. Others that you might want to look into are ginkgo biloba, acetyl l-carnitine, bacopa, 5-htp, ubiquinol, DMAE, and choline.

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Co-Founder of NutritionGeeks, retired USAPL drug-free powerlifter, volunteer youth wrestling coach, father of 3 amazing boys and interested in all things health

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