Maintaining optimal brain health encompasses several areas of self-care, including adhering to a healthy diet and lifestyle, managing stress and socializing regularly. Taking dietary supplements can help promote brain health
Medical experts maintain that several dietary supplements and vitamins are considered an important part of a brain-healthy diet. One such expert, Dr. Richard Isaacson, Harvard-trained neurologist and author of the book, “Alzheimer’s Treatment, Alzheimer’s Prevention,” recommends several supplements for your brain, including:
B Complex Vitamins
Fish Oil Supplements
1. Fish Oil
There have been many studies on fish oil supplements and their impact on brain health, in particular. According to a recent study, using specific types of fish oils (in specific dosages) may help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Omega 3 fatty acids, primarily docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) are recommended by the experts. Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal and there are many different grades, doses, and sources of fish oil. The right type of fish oil, in the correct dosage, is vital for optimal results.
Here is the breakdown:
At least 250 mg of DHA in each capsule: daily total of at least 1,000–1,500 mg
600 mg per day of EPA
Fish oil supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider. They should be taken with a meal and plenty of water. Start with a low dose and gradually build-up to the maximum dose (as tolerated) that is recommended by your physician.
Fish oil is safe for most people, but it can have an impact on bleeding, so it must be taken with caution for those on Coumadin or other anticoagulants — it’s vital to consult with your healthcare provider to have regular blood work checked.
In addition to promoting brain health, fish oil is also thought to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol, so, this supplement works in more than one way to help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
2. Folic Acid, Vitamin B6 and B12
High levels of an amino acid called homocysteine are thought to make the brain more vulnerable to beta-amyloid (a toxic substance which is a hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s). Homocysteine comes from the normal metabolism of protein from meat sources. An abnormally high level of homocysteine, along with low folic acid levels, has been associated with heart disease and possibly lends itself to a higher risk for dementia.
Homocysteine is not something that a normal MD will do on a blood test. If you would like to have your homocysteine levels checked we can do it at our clinic Tucson Functional Medicine 520-445-6784
An Oxford University study suggested that lowering homocysteine levels by supplementing with B vitamins may help fight against Alzheimer’s. Study participants age 70 and older, with a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment, were either given high-doses of folic acid, B6 and B12; or given placebo pills. After two years, the researchers discovered “the rate of brain shrinkage in people receiving the B vitamins was 30% lower than in those taking the placebo and the effect was greatest in those who had the highest levels of homocysteine,” according to the book “Alzheimer’s Treatment, Alzheimer’s Prevention.”
Based on the studies, 800 mcg of folic acid, 20 mg of B6 and 500 mcg of B12 per day are the best supplements for your brain health, but again, be sure to consult with a health care provider before taking any type of supplement.
3. Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D may protect the brain against cognitive decline and dementia. Over half of the people in the U.S. are deficient in Vitamin D, according to recent studies. There are several reasons for this common vitamin deficiency, including the lack of exposure to the sun —which the body requires to produce Vitamin D. As people age, the ability to synthesize (produce) and absorb Vitamin D is reduced. Obesity also lowers a person’s available Vitamin D, because this fat-soluble vitamin gets trapped in fat tissue. Vitamin K2 is needed for the proper absorption of Vitamin D
A 2014 study, published in the journal Neurology, indicated that people who were extremely low in Vitamin D had twice the likeliness of developing Alzheimer’s disease. If a person is unable to spend 10-15 minutes in direct sunlight each day between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., Vitamin D supplementation of 1,000–2,000 I.U. per day, or more, may be required. As with all other supplements, Vitamin D must be taken only with the approval and supervision of the treating physician.
Further studies are required to completely understand the role of Vitamin D in brain health.
Other Dietary Aids
Curcumin/turmeric is no longer recommended in a supplement form, but adding this medicinal spice to food is recommended to promote brain health.
Curcumin (turmeric root)
Curcumin/turmeric, a bright orange-colored spice and variation of ginger root, that is thought to help promote brain health and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. But recent studies have shown that this dietary spice is much more effective when curcumin is added to food, rather than taken as a supplement. In fact, eating turmeric along with some type of medium chained fatty acid (such as that found in coconut oil) is thought to result in a higher level of protection against dementia, than taking turmeric supplements. When piperine (an alkaloid found in black peppercorn) is added to a dish seasoned with turmeric, the absorption rate of turmeric is thought to increase. Eating dishes such as curry, cooked in coconut oil (seasoned with black peppercorn) and spiced with turmeric, is considered an effective way for the body to optimally absorb the brain-healthy effects of curcumin.