Why do we even need to think about the best brain supplements if we eat and drink?
I have thought long and hard about my recommendations for the best brain supplements. I wrote the brain health book as a complete “how to” for restoring lost cognition which occurs with aging. Not to mention, I have a cadre of private patients who rely on my brain booster expertise. So, if you’re in a rush, know you can click on the NAV bar and find the basic brain health kit. It contains only slightly more than I’ll go into depth about here and you can use the kit as your quick educational tool. But, that said, I hope you make time to read this! You’ll learn there is absolutely no way to get the amounts of certain nutrients in foods and beverages.
I will discuss the best brain supplements and also review the functions of those supplements. In addition, I’ll mention the other (non-brain) functions of those supplements so you can make an informed choice and get the best value for your money no matter where you shop.
Let me point out something we all know but rarely think about. You lose 3-5 IQ points per decade after age 30. You might think those IQ points are not re-gainable, but that’s where I will pleasantly surprise you. Perhaps, you are only 40 years old and reading this because your dad developed Alzheimer’s and you don’t want to “get it.” Maybe you’re a brainiac who has read about nootropics and wants to achieve high scores, so you think the best brain supplements will do the trick.
Perhaps, you are overwhelmed after reading my brain health guide. You may just want to know the basics supplements; wise to help you with memory, attentiveness, to protect you from developing dementia. I’ll make this as easy and comprehensive as possible to give you the information you need to get the supplements you need.
As a reminder per decade after 30 we lose noticeably:
Memory “consolidation and then hippocampal storage” skills.
Concentration skills (Ability to concentrate and pay attention).
Neural transmission speed (How fast we think and are able to retrieve information).
Actual brain cells = neurons (We now know can be sprouted from brain stem cells to form new replacement neurons).
Not to mention, 20+ years before developing Alzheimer’s we start accumulating the toxic substances called amyloid and tau proteins (but we are now finding that we also can prevent this too!)
General health practices and supplements also good for your brain:
I’ll remind you a normal weight is a must for good health. Intermittent fasting is now an acceptable practice for total health and brain health. One of the supplements below mimics fasting to a certain extent (resveratrol) and if you want more details go to the blog and search “fasting.” Exercise is mandatory for health, including brain health. To illustrate, this includes not just cardiovascular exercise but muscular exercise too.
GI tract health via good prebiotics and probiotics are a must for the brain. Sufficient omega 3 fatty acids which generally means fish oil supplements are also essential for both total health and brain health. Vitamin D is a must. Of course, all B vitamins and anti-oxidants are a must too.
I’m going to reveal my picks for the best brain supplements in each category. I’ll go about discussing these best brain supplements by category so that you’ll have a real understanding of what sorts of brain supplements you need. If you want to know about specific brain vitamins, follow the previous link.
If you are also wondering about minerals, you only need to supplement with magnesium threonate. And yes, this mineral and all the special B vitamins you need are in the brain kit. Now let’s go through the categories of brain activities you’ll see that you DO want to have augmented.
Color code to supplements:
The best brain supplements to increase concentration:
Here, I’ll just pick one. EGCG is the active component in green tea. It’s our first example of why not just eat and drink our way to brain health? First of all, only the top 3% of the leaves of the green tea plant contain this bioactive compound.
Teabag tea has none.
Even loose tea might not contain all that much. Even if you found great green tea, you cannot possibly drink enough ( 4 caps of our EGCG decaf green tea caplets) to get enough EGCG to increase your concentration.
Here’s all the news about EGCG.
Mounting evidence suggests a variety of health effects of green tea, from cardiovascular to cognitive.
In addition, it is one of the best energy supplements and also one of the most effective natural metabolism boosting supplements.
Furthermore, studies show the increase in focus can even be picked up on EEG testing!
Best Brain Health Supplements Which Stimulate Neural Stem Cells and Connections:
This supplement is believed, based on several excellent studies, to increase neural stem cell “sprouting” as well as facilitating the making of new neuronal communications. It is not found in food sources so should be a supplement everyone takes for multiple reasons. For example, it can help with cancer prevention and increase depth of sleep. Dosing for melatonin can be up to 60+ mg/night! My recommendation is 1-3 mg a week without a morning “hangover.” If, at any point, you experience sleep interruptive dreaming, just hold at that dose. I am personally taking 100 mg each night, but this isn’t tolerated by all. On this website, I put the upper limit at 30 mg since not quite everyone consults with me.
We have long known the many benefits of curcumin which you’ll read about shortly. Perhaps most exciting is that scientific findings are finally concluding the real benefits of aromatic-turmerone. The most important group in the turmeric compound are called curcuminoids. The compound is found within turmeric and extracted into the best curcumin supplements such as our cumetra supplement. Aromatic-turmerone has shown to increase neural stem cell growth within the brain by as much as 80%. It may even help reverse some signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain Health Supplements Which Dissolve Amyloid and Tau Proteins:
Several comprehensive research studies show curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of the probably destructive beta-amyloid and tau proteins in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.
It also has been shown to break up existing plaques.
I say probably destructive because it is still unknown if the toxic proteins are formed due to the disease or are causative of the disease.
Chicken or egg?
We just don’t really know, but since curcumin is so healthy overall, why wouldn’t you take it?
Notably, you can get some curcumin if you cook with turmeric.
However, only 3-5% of the “actives” are in the spice. As a result, you can’t get the active ingredients you need without a good curcumin supplement. By the way I’m convinced amyloid and tau are the “eggs.”
Resveratrol has also been postulated to help prevent the buildup of amyloid and tau plaques. Publicity about this amazing health supplement became whimsy when people thought that a glass of red wine daily would do the trick. This is another instance where the beverage won’t “cut it.” You’d need to drink 100 bottles per day to consume enough resveratrol to have a beneficial effect. More about this special supplement to come.
Best Brain Supplements Which Speed Neural Transmission
Alpha Glyceral Phosphoral Choline or GPC
GPC amplifies the communication between nerves in the cerebellar cortex to assist in movement and coordination. In addition, the synthesis of phospholipids in the brain involves GPC. Laboratory studies suggest GPC can increase the rate of phospholipid synthesis, thereby increasing the coverings for nerves and helping coordinate the “thought signals” along the proper pathways. As a result, this will amplify and likely speed the velocity of thought. However, GPC’s relationship to acetylcholine has a greater influence on neural transmission speeding.
Acetylcholine is the “cognition” neurotransmitter. This brain chemical is essential to think and form memories. Incidentally, a noticeable GPC deficiency can be an early sign of dementia. So, if you have short term memory loss, don’t ignore it. You might have MCI which is entirely treatable.
Acetyl l carnitine is known and accepted as an amino acid which boosts general nerve transmission speed
Scientists mostly agree it has the same effects on neural cell transmission.
This nerve tissue speed was recently studied in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy.
A dose of 2000 mg per day of ALC produced a decrease in pain, improvement in nerve conduction (speed of transmission of impulse), and some nerve regeneration.
Brain Health Supplements for memory improvement with proven studies:
When melatonin is taken daily, it can improve both cognitive functioning and memory. There is proof of this in a whopping number of studies.
Researchers have shown people taking between 3 and 24 mg of melatonin nightly for 15 to 60 months performed significantly better on a variety of cognitive assessment scales and memory tests.
GPC (Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline)
I’ll get into more details here about GPC. GPC is similar to phosphatidylserine, but for the sake of picking, it is a bit more responsible for cognition. GPC has more responsibility in making acetylcholine which is the dominant brain cognitive neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine is essential for muscular control, proper sleep, cognition, and memory. Levels of it decline with age, and this is preventable by supplementing with GPC. Quite interestingly (to me), in Europe, GPC is sold as a prescription drug used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Alpha-GPC is found in milk and a couple of other foods, but again, in insufficient amounts to be therapeutic.
Our friend, the extract of green tea makes it to this list too. At the University of Shizuoka (Japan), scientists enrolled 12 elderly nursing home residents with cognitive dysfunction, average age 88 years, in a study. Each subject consumed green tea powder 2 g/day for 3 months. The team observed after three months of green tea consumption, the participants’ memory testing scores were significantly improved! The study authors submit that: “This result suggests that green tea consumption may be effective in improving cognitive function or reducing the progression of cognitive dysfunction.” Remember also the green tea powder used in this study was made from the bioactive top 3% of green tea leaves, so teabags just don’t “make the grade.”
Best brain supplements to boost BDNF:
Brain-Derived Neutrophic Factor (BDNF), is an essential nervous system protein which improves both brain and nervous system function. Functions which are affected include the growth of new brain cells and brain cell connections (synapses), prevention of the death of existing brain cells, as well as cognitive functioning. BDNF is considered as the most important neurotrophin within the brain. Lower levels of BDNF are associated with an increased chance of Alzheimer’s.
BDNF influences a variety of functions. These include preventing death of existing brain cells, inducing the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and synapses, and supporting cognitive (thinking) function. Markedly, low levels of BDNF have been linked to a number health conditions. For example, Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, neurotransmitter dysfunction, obesity, depression are just a few. When you’re done with this article, you can circle back and read about other natural ways to increase BDNF.
Curcumin has been shown in various studies to promote BDNF production within the memory storage area of the brain called the hippocampus. In fact, in rodent studies we see improved cognitive functioning and anti-depressant effects.
I can’t emphasize enough only the best green tea has EGCG as an active ingredient that has shown to increase BDNF and even improve mental focus. I highly recommend our decaf green tea supplement, with enough EGCG to boost BDNF and increase mental focus. In addition, this humble little supplement is a great metabolism booster as mentioned above.
There are studies about this supplement for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases as well as the overall process of aging.
In one study, researchers looked at the effects of resveratrol supplementation on the production of BDNF in the hippocampal memory center of rats.
They discovered that resveratrol supplementation increased levels of BDNF.
In conclusion, the researchers conveyed the increased BDNF may result in neuroprotective effects in humans as well.
How to Choose the Best Brain Health Supplements; Neuroprotective; non-BDNF pathways:
Curcumin – a huge bang for your health buck – not just brain health
Curcumin has been used in neuroscience research and noted to pass the blood-brain barrier easily. It improves stroke damage, as well as some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It can also be responsible for an increase in overall brain health because of it’s powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As I have discussed in a blog dedicated to pain, curcumin can block the inflammatory, metabolic byproducts of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX) enzymes, along with other enzymes which control inflammation in the body and brain. It successfully lowers total body inflammation and therefore assists with a number of conditions. For example, pain management, weight loss, diabetes control, heart disease, cancer prevention and more. So, now do you see what I mean?
Melatonin is a sleep aid, but the current focus of scientific research is its benefits for brain health.
Studies demonstrate it protects the brain from oxidative stress, aging, and environmental factors. It is also likely to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
Melatonin may help combat Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the damage caused by the two harmful proteins I mention above: amyloid beta proteins and tau proteins.
High levels of these two proteins contribute to the death of brain cells and are indeed linkable to Alzheimer’s disease, either way.
Melatonin also helps fight Alzheimer’s disease by guarding against the harmful effects of aluminum. Although controversial regarding causation, many experts believe it produces Alzheimer-like oxidative changes in brain cells.
Alpha Glyceral PPC=GPC
There are aging brain benefits from GPC supplementation. In fact, it decreases the loss of brain cells and nerve fibers that come with aging. Animals studies show long-term treatment with GPC partially offsets the loss of nerve fibers and brain cells that occurs with aging.
EGCG, the green tea concentration boosting ingredient, is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants protect brain cells from the leading causes of cognitive disease and aging-free radical damage. Since EGCG easily passes the blood-brain barrier, it’s anti-oxidant powers protect brain cells which are highly susceptible to free radical damage. It is also a potent anti-inflammatory. Again, this is good for the body and brain. Furthermore, this polyphenol catechin found in green tea prevents and reduces the formation of the brain plaques linked to Alzheimer’s, especially when taken with a fish oil supplement.
ALC, acetyl- l- carnitine, has un-matched ability to protect the brain against stress and excitotoxic damage. Common excitotoxins are MSG and aspartame. Unlike plain l-carnitine, acetyl-l-carnitine is fat soluble and, therefore, able to be highly active in nerves. And “plan l-carnitine” is found in meats, but acetyl-l-carnitine must be consumed as a supplement. ALC is well known for the protection of nerve cells and regenerative effect on them. So, here is a summary of what I’m saying about supplements in this blog.
A word about mood:
There is a statistically significant correlation between the incidence of depression and Alzheimer’s dementia. In fact, the basic mechanism in the brain is the two “happy neurotransmitters”, which become low in depression, are responsible for lots of what’s called “memory consolidation and storage.”
In fact, the memory storage area in the brain called the hippocampus is actually measurably smaller in those with long-term histories of depression. The two neurotransmitters I mention are dopamine and serotonin. So, when you ask me to help you choose the right natural mood enhancers you are not just helping your mood, you are helping yourself prevent Alzheimer’s disease too.