Brain Vitamins: Can Vitamins Boost Memory?

The brain is a critical element of life. It is considered a central processor for the entire body. Centers in the brain control almost all processes of the human body.

With a healthy brain, a person can think, move, communicate, learn, and utilize memory functions. The brain sends signals toward various areas of the body. This allows multiple systems to work together, keeping the body functioning as it should. 

Even small problems with the brain can lead to functional difficulties in the body. Poor cognitive performance makes it difficult to focus. This can reduce productivity or make learning harder. Memory problems make it hard for people to remember names, numbers, addresses, and other essential elements. 

The importance of healthy brain function causes many people to turn to vitamins to enhance cognitive performance. There are a few vitamins and supplements that were shown to enhance overall brain health and function.

Not all claims, however, have been backed by science. We look at the best brain supplements and how they may help. 

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Why Brain Health Matters

Several systems form part of the human body. Each of these systems has its own role to play in the general well-being of the individual. The brain acts as a central control station for most of these systems. The human brain consists of multiple areas – and every area is involved in its own range of functions. 

Brain health is a topic that involves several factors. The brain is, after all, a very complex organ. It generally starts with blood flow. Adequate amounts of blood need to flow to the brain for it to function properly. Blood carries both oxygen and nutrients. These are both important for brain health. 

Additionally, the brain also produced neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemicals. These chemicals help the brain communicate with the rest of the body. When brain health deteriorates, there may be problems in maintaining a healthy balance among these chemicals.

This can lead to adverse effects. Depression is an example of a complication that can develop when hormones are out of balance, but several other adverse effects should be noted. 

When talking about a subject like brain health, many people immediately think about Alzheimer’s disease. This also means that individuals generally consider brain health to only become a critical topic in old age. 

According to studies, over five million adults in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. Within the next three decades, this figure is estimated to rise to almost 14 million. In the country, Alzheimer’s disease is also considered among the leading causes of death. 

While Alzheimer’s disease is generally associated with older age, it is important that people note their risk can be reduced. To reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other brain-related problems, it is important to attend to brain health from a younger age. 

Age-related brain conditions are not the only topics that should be discussed when considering this organ’s well-being. In the modern-day, an increasing number of young people report problems with their attention, focus, and memory abilities. 

With these factors in mind, young adults should be looking at ways to attend to their brains’ well-being. This may help to reduce the risk of experiencing poor cognitive function at such a young age. Additionally, early implementation of these strategies may help to preserve brain health as the person grows older. 

Can Nutrition Enhance Brain Health?

With a rising prevalence of poor cognitive performance, people are looking for ways to boost brain health. As mentioned, attending to brain health during early adulthood should be important. This helps to reduce the risks of brain diseases later on in life. 

A question that remains is related to the specific methods that can be used to achieve better brain health. Fortunately, several studies have already looked at how brain health can be generally improved, as well as how risks of certain brain conditions can be reduced. 

Nutrition is an interesting topic when looking at ways to enhance brain health. The average American diet tends to include a large number of unhealthy foods. 

One study, published in the Journal of Immunity, reports that there seems to be a strong connection between the current Western diet and the immune system’s general health.

Researchers in the study note that foods generally included in the modern Western diet cause a rise in inflammatory markers. These markers affect various areas of the body, including organs. The brain is an organ that can also be affected. Inflammatory triggers in the brain can have serious consequences – often leading to what many refer to as “brain fog.”

This is only one of the many studies that show a connection between nutrition, diet, and brain health. 

Nutrition psychiatry has become an increasingly mentioned topic today, particularly due to a rise in studies that look at the effects of food on the brain. 

When looking at this connection, it is vital to consider the association between neurotransmitters and food. Researchers have found that an estimated 95% of the body’s serotonin is not produced in the brain.

Only about 5% of these neurotransmitters are produced in the brain. The remainder is produced inside the gastrointestinal tract. Neurons are found at the lining of the gastrointestinal tract

As a person consumes food, it can alter the production of serotonin in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Bacteria tend to be a major contributor to either a healthy or unhealthy neurotransmitter balance. With billions of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, these microorganisms can affect the way that serotonin is produced in the digestive system. With the right foods, more healthy bacteria colonize the gut. Eat an unhealthy diet, however, and there is a risk of having a larger variety and number of unhealthy bacteria. 

Certain nutrients contained in food may also contribute to reduced inflammatory markers in the body. This, in turn, may cause inflammation affecting the brain to decline. Blood flow may be improved, essentially ensuring more oxygen and nutrients are able to reach the brain. 

The combined effects of these mechanisms contribute to improved brain health – but only when the right nutrients are obtained. 

What Are Brain Health Supplements?

While a healthy diet can benefit the brain, many people find that using additional supplements add more positive effects.

The right set of supplements could enhance cognitive performance, reduce problems like memory loss, and provide a decline in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Brain health supplements is a very broad term. It is used to describe any supplement containing ingredients that may act upon the brain. There are various types of supplements on the market today.

Some of these hold more evidence behind their claims than others. Thus, when looking at brain health supplements, it is always important to consider studies that have been conducted on the nutrients and herbal extracts. 

Vitamin B12: This B vitamin is often advised for people with low energy levels, but it also plays a crucial role in brain health. Also called cobalamin, studies show a link between memory loss and a deficiency in vitamin B12. Obtaining enough of this vitamin may assist in enhancing memory function. It could also help to reduce the risk of severe memory loss in the future. Older individuals have a greater risk of experiencing a deficiency in this vitamin. 

Caffeine: While not a vitamin or mineral, caffeine also holds the potential to boost brain function. It is included in many nootropics, particularly due to the stimulatory effect it has. Drinking a small amount of coffee each day may have long-term benefits for the brain as well. 

Phosphatidylserine: Another option is to use phosphatidylserine supplements. This is a natural fat that is already present in the brain. Taking supplements with this compound may help to enhance the structural health of the brain. Studies show that the supplement could potentially improve memory, as well as thinking skills.  

Omega 3 fatty acid: Fish oil supplements and oily fish are a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two types of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been linked with many health benefits, including improved brain health. DHA plays a vital role in maintaining the structure and function of your brain. In fact, it accounts for around 25% of the total fat, and 90% of the omega-3 fat, found in your brain cells.

Ginkgo Biloba: The main benefit of this plant extract is to increase blood flow to the brain. Studies are a bit mixed, but there is evidence that shows gingko biloba may assist in enhancing memory and focus. It could also provide a reduced risk of age-related brain diseases. 

Bacopa Monnieri: A popular part of traditional medicine. This particular herbal extract could enhance memory. Some people experience improvements in their thinking skills when they use the supplement. 

These are not all the supplements that show potential in preserving brain health and reducing the risks of brain-related conditions.

Curcumin, for example, may help to provide a reduction in inflammation – not only in joints but the entire body, including the brain. Resveratrol, found in grapes and red wine, is a potent antioxidant. Its activity in the body could help to reduce damage in the brain dealt with by free radicals. 

Nootropics Vs. Brain Supplements

When looking to enhance brain function through supplements, there are two major categories to choose from. A person can opt for regular brain health supplements or rather choose to use nootropics. Each of these categories holds scientific research behind them, but there are also both pros and cons to be considered. 

A lot of people are associated with nootropics and brain supplements with each other. The two terms, in fact, are sometimes used interchangeably. It is important to note, however, that there are differences between them. 

Understanding how nootropics compare to brain supplements can help a person make a more informed decision. It also ensures a person is able to recognize the type of supplement that will be right for their individual needs. 

Below, we take a look at a few important differences to note when comparing nootropics vs. brain supplements:

  • Brain Supplements: Brain supplements usually refer to pills made from nutrients and plant extracts. The main goal of a brain dietary supplement will usually be to improve the well-being of the organ. This means helping to enhance the delivery of oxygen to the brain. The supplement may assist in providing a protective action for the brain too. This type of action may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and related conditions in the future. It is a general supplement that can be taken for overall brain health

  • Nootropics: A nootropic is more specialized compared to a standard brain supplement. This type of supplement focuses on providing a boost to brain function. Acute or more immediate effects are expected, particularly when compared to a brain supplement. Nootropics are often referred to as steroids for the brain. 

There are some similarities in the effects expected from the two categories of supplements. The ingredients, however, may often differ. A person should consider their own needs. This will help them determine which type of supplement will be the best option for them. 

Do Brain Supplements Work?

Whether a brain supplement works largely depends on several factors. The result tends to vary from person to person too. Thus, considering if these products really work is a rather complex topic. The short answer would be yes and no – depending on the person and the supplement used. 

For some people, the use of brain supplements helps them be more alert and improves focus. Some people also experience a better mood and less depressive symptoms when they use a brain health supplement. On the other hand, a number of people find that a brain supplement yields no effects, even with prolonged consumption. 

An important factor to consider is the supplement itself. It is always important to do thorough research on these supplements. This helps a person determine whether or not a specific supplement might be worth it.

Many studies focus on the most common ingredients used in brain supplements. Some studies do report positive effects when participants in clinical trials are provided with certain vitamins, minerals, and even natural plant extracts. 

Apart from considering whether a supplement works, it is also important that a person considers the product’s safety profile. Even though natural ingredients are generally used in these products, there is still a risk of adverse reactions. Some natural substances have been linked to side-effects. It is also possible for a person to experience an allergic reaction to certain ingredients. 

Thus, reading a label carefully and doing extensive research before deciding on one particular supplement needs to be considered a priority. 

Tips To Keep Your Brain Healthy

A healthy diet is one of the most important ways to care for the brain. Using certain supplements may further assist in improving brain health, as well as provide protection for conditions that affect this organ.

These, however, are not the only ways to maintain a healthy brain. There are additional strategies that people can use to help protect their brains against disease, as well as enhance their overall functionality. 

Some of the most important tips that should be considered when aiming to improve brain health:

  • Exercise should form a critical part of a person’s daily diet. Exercising helps with weight control – which is essential for keeping inflammation low and chronic disease at minimal risk. Some studies show exercise helps to enhance the circulation of blood throughout the body. This helps more blood pass through the heart and delivers a higher concentration of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. 

  • Getting enough sleep is also important. When a person experiences sleep deprivation, they are at risk of several adverse effects in their body. This includes cognitive impairment. Long term exposure to sleep deficiency can also lead to adverse effects on the brain’s structure. 

  • Physical exercise might be important, but so is a mental activity. Constantly exposing the mind to mental stimuli can be another useful strategy when attending to brain health. Participating in activities that require mental skills, such as puzzles, is a great way to keep the mind active for both young and older individuals. 

  • Another tip that has also been shown to provide effective benefits for the brain is socializing. Remaining social with friends and family helps preserve cognitive health and reduces the risk of depression conditions. 

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Conclusion

A decline in brain health can lead to serious adverse effects on a person’s daily life. Remembering simple names or addresses may seem nearly impossible. Productivity may decline, and the individual may start to experience depressive symptoms.

Using brain boosting supplements may act as a preventative option. Certain vitamins may assist in improving focus, memory, and mood among those already experiencing cognitive decline.

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Sources

  1. StatPearls. (2020) Physiology, Brain. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551718/
  2. Alzheimers Association. Facts and Figures. [online] Available at: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures
  3. Journal of Immunity. (2019) Western Diet and the Immune System: An Inflammatory Connection. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31747581/
  4. Harvard Medical School. (2015) Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
  5. Journal of Nutrients. (2020) A Systematic Review of the Effect of Dietary Supplements on Cognitive Performance in Healthy Young Adults and Military Personnel. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071459/
  6. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (2020) A Public Health Issue: Dietary Supplements Promoted for Brain Health and Cognitive Performance. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7153641/
  7. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. (2010) Soybean-derived phosphatidylserine improves memory function of the elderly Japanese subjects with memory complaints. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21103034/
  8. Journal of Pharmacopsychiatry. (2003) Cognitive performance, SPECT, and blood viscosity in elderly non-demented people using Ginkgo Biloba. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12905098/

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