A plastic brain is a healthy brain that is able to change in response to stimulation demands placed upon it.
The vitamins and supplements covered here help improve your brain's plasticity and performance.
Consider this: every year about 97% of your body is completely replaced- all the way down to the structure of the DNA that makes up your genetic code.
All of the replacement and reconstruction materials your brain and body uses to do this come from the nutrients you eat.
In order to keep dementia from robbing you of your golden years- feeding your brain the proper nutrition is paramount!
Today's food supply offers very little in the way of real nutrition!
All Vitamins and Supplements Are NOT Created Equal.
Like anything else- you tend to get what you pay for. Good nutrition is no different.
You can run down to the nearest Walmart or other super sized store and grab a bottle of generic brand multivitamins- but I do not recommend it.
Many of the supplements in the big-box stores are made from cheaper, synthetic materials.
Your brain needs and deserves better than that.
The Top 5 Supplements cover three important areas for optimal brain health:
1- They provide building material for new cells and maintenance of existing cells.
2- Supplements provide protection of brain cell plasticity.
3- They can restore age-related declining levels of vital nutrients. By restoring youthful levels- you can slow your brain aging process!
The following supplements are listed by economic priority- if you are tight on money- start with the vitamins at the top of the list and work your way down.
A Good Multi-vitamin
Multivitamins supply vital nutrition and building materials for your brain that has been largely stripped away in processed foods.
I have been taking vitamins for most of my life, and when I discovered Dr. Steve Blake's BRAIN and Body FOOD I knew the search was over- I had found what I was looking for. Two weeks of taking this power-packed supplement gave me more energy than I ever felt from any other multi-vitamin.
Brain and Body Food is specially formulated to decrease the risk of dementia. This formula contains most of the nutrients that are were used in the successful Hawaii Dementia Prevention Trial. Each nutrient is in the ideal form to be absorbed and utilized for brain and body health. The small, coated tablets are easy to swallow and are tested to ensure complete absorption.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is very important for both brain and heart health.
It is a major structural component for brain cells.
Lower levels of omega-3 are related to decreased brain plasticity.
Omega-3 can be found in fish oil, krill oil, walnuts, and flaxseed oil to name a few.
I eat fish and walnuts on a regular basis- but I like taking a fish oil capsule on days I do not eat foods with omega-3.
It's an easy way for me to know I am getting the same amount of omega-3 in my system on a regular basis.
The bulk of omega-3 is made up of two components- EPA (eico-sapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaeonic acid). Of these two- it is the DHA that your brain benefits from most.
People with Alzheimer's have dramatically lower levels of DHA in the brain cells involved with new memory and learning (hippocampal region in the temporal lobe).
DHA supplementation has been shown to improve prevention of age-related memory loss. See chapter 11, The Skinny on Fat & Cholesterol in my book for more details.
Omega-3 is your friend- feed it to your brain!
Antioxidants fight the free radical war that is waged every day in your body and brain.
Research shows that with increasing age- brain cells (neurons) exhibit a reduced ability to cope with oxidative stress.
Oxidation is the most powerful process of decay on earth. The rusting of steel- the rotting of meat- and the hardening of arteries all take place via oxidation.
If a neuron cannot adequately defend itself against the ravages of free radicals- it loses its ability to maintain itself and becomes weakened- loses connections- and eventually dies.
Lost brain cells = lost brain function.
For more details on this topic see Chapter 15- The Aging Brain in my book- You CAN Prevent Alzheimer's!
Vitamins C and E are great antioxidants that you already get in a good multivitamin.
Research indicates that nature's strongest antioxidant is astaxantihin (pronounced "asta-zan-thin"). It's the compound found abundantly in salmon that gives them the strength to swim upstream!
Antioxidants can also be found in superfoods such as blueberries, acai berries, and many other fruits and vegetables.
You will NOT find anti-oxidants in processed junk foods!
Turmeric is a yellow powder found in curry. It contains an active chemical called curcumin.
Not only do studies show that curcumin has a significant antioxidant effect- but it also has anti-inflammatory properties!
This is important because as you age your immune system becomes overactivated- and your cells produce more inflammatory chemicals than they did when you were younger.
It has been known for awhile now that inflammation is implicated in heart disease- and now we know that inflammation is also involved in degenerative brain diseases including Alzheimer's.
There is strong evidence that inflammation exacerbates neuronal (brain cell) loss.
For these reasons it is important to keep inflammatory chemical levels low in your brain.
For more on this topic see Chapter 16- Inflammation and Inflammaging in my book- You CAN Prevent Alzheimer's!
Curcumin does a great job at protecting the mitochondria (energy producers in your cells) and protects against various forms of cancer. Healthy brain cells are very active and require high levels of energy to keep active communication with other brain cells.
You need healthy mitochondria to keep cellular energy levels at optimal levels.
Another astounding research finding about turmeric is: curcumin actually inhibits the accumulation of beta-amyloid-- the sticky plaque associated with Alzheimer's.
This sticky plaque gums up the connections between brain cells- decreasing their ability to communicate- and can lead to cellular death.
Your brain is unable to break up this plaque- and so far researcher's have been unable to come up with a pill or an answer as well.
But nature has the answer- curcumin!
Consider this fact: the average daily intake of curcumin in America is negligible- while in India- where Alzheimer's rates are much lower- curcumin consumption is between 60-100 m.g. per day.
The ability to assist in keeping brain inflammation under control and inhibit beta-amyloid accumulation earns turmeric a
spot in the top 5 supplement list.
Melatonin and DHEA
Melatonin and DHEA are hormones that provide protection for your brain.
Unfortunately- they both significantly decrease in your brain as it ages (see following graphs).
Fortunately- they are inexpensive and can be obtained almost anywhere- making it simple to restore youthful levels.
Melatonin is a powerful anti-oxidant that can easily cross cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier.
Not only is melatonin a super antioxidant- it also helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm).
Here's one of the main reasons I take melatonin:
It helps protect against the formation of the tau protein that results in the tangles inside brain cells associated with Alzheimer's. See chapter 17, Neurohormones and Brain Aging in my book for more details.
DHEA is an intermediary hormone that provides the base material for other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Your brain contains much more DHEA per gram of tissue than the rest of your body.
DHEA acts as a buffer against stress chemicals (cortisol) and acts as an anti-inflammatory.
This is important because chronic stress is a killer of brain connections and brain cells.
Stress packs a one-two punch- it increases stress chemicals (cortisol) and influences the release of harmful inflammatory chemicals.
Together- these molecules are toxic and cost you cellular connections and even brain cells- specifically in the brain region where new memory and learning occurs. See chapter 9, Stress: Public enemy #1 for more detail.
DHEA is a great brain defender against the stress of life!
For more information on these topics see Part VI- Slowing the March of Time in- You CAN Prevent Alzheimer's!
Dr. Thomas Harding Neuropsychologist Neuroscientist, Author & Founder