4 nutrients that can supercharge your brain function
(NaturalHealth365) Are you feeling “frazzled?” For many people, the seemingly endless stream of data from social media, online news sources and cable TV can create a mentally fatiguing sense of “information overload.” But, an assortment of natural brain nutrients may be able to help.
Scientific research shows that these nootropic (brain function-enhancing) compounds can speed up brain processing, increase alertness and motivation, improve memory, diminish anxiety and stress and even fight cognitive decline.
In other words, these supplements can help to “supercharge” cognitive function – while promoting clarity, focus and a sense of calm. Let’s take a look at four of the very best brain nutrients for sharpening mental abilities and combating tension.
Boost memory and mood with bacopa
Bacopa monnieri – also known as Brahmi, water hyssop and Indian pennywort – has long been revered in the Ayurvedic healing system for its ability to enhance brain function while decreasing anxiety and stress.
Bacopa contains constituents called bacosides – powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that neutralize disease-causing free radicals. In addition, they arrest the harmful peroxidation of fats that can contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In animal studies, bacopa extracts were shown to reverse memory impairment and signs of dementia. These studies also demonstrated that bacopa increased the growth and branching of brain nerve cells – significantly improving the animals’ spatial memory.
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In addition, animal studies have shown that bacopa supplementation modulates the production of neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers), reduces brain inflammation, promotes the all-important connections between brain cells and increases blood flow to the brain.
And, yes, human studies on bacopa have been even more promising!
In one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in Psychopharmacology, researchers gave healthy young volunteers 300 mg of bacopa a day for twelve weeks. They found that the bacopa extracts significantly improved the speed with which the volunteers processed visual information – as well as improving memory, enhancing attention and accelerating learning rate.
A natural healer might recommend a bacopa amount of 500 mg a day to enhance cognitive function. Of course, check first with your own doctor before supplementing.
Gotu Kola: The “Go-To” brain nutrient for supporting cognitive function and relieving stress
Botanically known as Centella asiatica, gotu kola has a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat epilepsy, insomnia and anxiety. Like bacopa, gotu kola may be referred to as “Brahmi,” although the two herbs are unrelated.
But, similar to bacopa, gotu kola has brain-boosting abilities. There is evidence that extracts from this Asian herb can help alleviate age-related mild cognitive impairment – the slight but noticeable decline in cognitive function that can accompany normal aging.
In one placebo-controlled study of elderly adults, two months of gotu kola supplementation caused significant improvements in attention and reaction time, especially when given at the highest amounts of 750 mg, daily.
Improvements were also seen in short-term working memory, word recognition, spatial memory and picture recognition – leading the team to remark that gotu kola has the potential to combat age-related cognitive decline in the healthy elderly.
Keep in mind, this versatile brain nutrient also has stress-relieving and mood-lifting effects that may help it to reduce anxiety and depression.
For maximum benefit, look for a high-quality formulation standardized to contain asiaticosides and asiatic acid. Natural healers may advise gotu kola amounts at around 500 mg a day – but, as we like to say, check with your integrative physician before supplementing.
Two vision-improving brain nutrients share a surprising link with cognitive function
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids – natural plant pigments with powerful antioxidant and disease-fighting abilities.
Levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are concentrated in the macula at the center of the retina – where they help to protect against threats to vision such as age-related macular degeneration, chronic inflammation and the damaging effects of blue light.
These beneficial carotenoids are also found in the brain. And, scientists have recently discovered an intriguing fact.
People with the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula and plasma also happen to have the highest cognitive capabilities. Studies have shown that higher levels of these carotenoids in the brain are associated with better brain function and performance in the areas of learning, memory, perception, decision-making and motor coordination.
Naturally, this finding has piqued the interest of researchers, with nine different clinical studies dedicated to exploring this connection.
Lutein and zeaxanthin can enhance memory and recall – and “buffer” cognitive decline
The research shows that oral intake of lutein and zeaxanthin increases the processing of visual signals and enhances memory retention, causing improvements in cognitive function.
In a year-long study published in 2017 in Nutrients, researchers set out to determine whether daily supplementation with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin could improve cognitive function in healthy volunteers aged 18 to 30.
The team found that the supplements resulted in significant improvements in memory, reasoning and complex attention – the ability to entertain and assess simultaneous, complicated ideas in the mind before appropriately acting on them.
Supporting this sort of sophisticated “mental juggling” is particularly valuable in these days of widespread multi-tasking, split screens and divided attention! By the way, it isn’t only young, healthy individuals who benefit from lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation.
In a year-long study of elderly adults published in 2017 in Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, the carotenoids improved complex attention, learning and memory while increasing brain blood flow.
The impressed researchers concluded that the supplements benefited neurocognitive function, thereby “buffering” cognitive decline.
You can boost dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin with healthy amounts of organic carrots, pumpkins, kale, spinach, squash and corn. These carotenoids are also available as a supplement – but be sure to check with your doctor to see what’s best for you.
No doubt, confusion, mental fatigue and brain fog can all take a toll on performance and quality of life. The natural brain nutrients listed above can help sharpen memory and reasoning skills and get you “back in the game.”
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