Just like any other part of the body, the brain ages with time. You may have noticed that it takes longer to recall a fact or maybe something seemingly trivial like where you left the car keys. Is this a sign that your brain is aging and losing it's abilities ?
It could be but lets also think about the world we now live in.
The so called information age means that the average person is exposed to so much more information than in any time in history. And the speed at which information is delivered to us on TV, computers, mobile phones and such like increases everyday.
In fact, it's easy to gorge yourself on information. Information overload could well be the reason why you can't recall things that you used to know.
So before you start thinking about supplements for the brain, consider how much information you consume and try to go on an information diet. Focus on the things that are important to you rather than following the buzz. Consume all sorts of random facts here and there might make you think that you are busy but it may be scrambling your brain.
With this said, the brain does naturally age.
For instance, unpleasant as it sounds and is, the brain will actually change in color as it ages. It will go a light to dark brown color as the cells in the brain accumulate substances known as lipofuscin and neuromelanin in them. It is effectively being stained by these waste by-products of the oxidation process of unsaturated fatty acids.
Another example of how the brain ages is myelination depletion. Myelination is the fatty insulation around neurons. It is supposed to be at it's peak in our 20's and steadily declines after that. It allows electrical signals to travel through the brain quicker and with less distortion. The implication is that this means you remember things, like where you left your car keys more readily.
More generally, the brain is thought to shrink or lose it's mass over time. Again, this implies that it's ability to function will diminish in relation to this loss in size. With this said, there is still much research needed to understand the true aging effects on the brain but some supplements may help.
Some Supplements To Consider
Vitamins E and C
Vitamins E and C have antioxidant properties, which can combat the ravages of free radical damage. This is not just on the cells in the brain but the whole of the body. Free radicals de-stabilize healthy functioning cells which may lead to inflammation and illness or just the destruction of the individual cell.
B-complex vitamins such as folic acid, B12 and B6 are meant to protect the brain by reducing levels of homocysteines in the body. Studies show that there are high levels of homocysteine in people who do not do well in cognitive tests. Some studies also suggest that the use of B complex vitamins may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help in developing and maintaining the structure of brain cells and the connections between them.
Of these omega-3 fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, is thought to be of most benefit as it is a primary structural component of the brain.
Fish like salmon and trout can provide the body with DHA. Supplements can also get this substance to the body if you don't like to eat these types of fish.
Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)
The membranes that cover the brain deteriorate with age. The market today offers a nutrient called phosphatidyl serine (PS) to preserve the stability and function of these membranes. PS is supposed to stimulate cells in your brain to make new dendrites and axons.
Articles about PS claim that it enhances certain cognitive abilities such as name finding, number recall, and face recognition. They also point out that much clinical research has gone into understanding this compound.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
This supplement is an antioxidant, which is currently under extensive study. So far, it is claimed to possess many beneficial properties and is being used to improve cognitive functions or prevent dysfunctions related to aging.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is an essential to the production of "acetylcholine," a neurotransmitter that is necessary for mental function. Studies suggest that acteyl-L-carnitine delays the progression of Alzheimer's disease and enhances the overall performance of people with the disease.
Caution With Anti-aging Supplements For The Brain
There are more and more supplements for all sorts of problems these days. Heaps for anti-aging and heaps for the brain.
In most cases, these supplements have not gone through rigorous trials and are usually not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are often a mix of “feel good” substances that have the support of Ayurvedic or Ancient Chinese medicine practitioners. Or herbalists and other non scientific thinkers.
That's not to say they won't have some benefit but there are no guarantees either. The scientific method is the foundation of much of mankind's progress but it's certainly not the only method that has moved mankind forward.
So do your own research before you decide to take a supplement and even see your doctor for advice on a supplement.