As you grow older, the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia increases drastically. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease (AD). Its incidence rate among the geriatric population over 70 years of age is about 9.5%.
A national survey approximated that the occurrence of cognitive function impairment in non-institutionalized older adults was 4% in individuals of 65–74 years of age and increased to 9 and 20% among 75–84 and 85 years, respectively.
Cognitive behavior involves the process of thinking, learning, understanding, remembering, and intellectual activity. As of today, there aren't many effective prophylactic strategies for supporting cognitive weakening.
Because physicians don't have definitive drugs to offer, most people tend to incline towards complementary and alternative therapy in order to attain effective cognitive support. One of the most common alternative medicinal approaches for cognitive health is dietary supplementation.
There is an assortment of herbs and supplements available that may help in improving your brain health. While most of these are available on the supermarket shelves, some of them might also be present in your pantry. Studies have been conducted to assess the effectiveness of these herbs and spices on overall cognitive effects in general and on Alzheimer's disease in particular.
Here's a list of some herbs and supplements that are beneficial for the cognitive function of your body.
Turmeric is a flowering plant that belongs to the ginger family. Its roots are used as a spice in meals and are famous for its tremendous health benefits. With the scientific name Curcuma longa, its active compound is curcumin and has proven to possess extraordinary antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
A 2010 review reported that primary research shows turmeric to boost cognitive function and improves brain health. It also strips off Alzheimer's disease by eliminating beta-amyloid (a protein fragment) from the brain, which is considered to be associated with the formation of brain plaques. Additionally, turmeric is known to be a famous herb for the brain as it restricts the breakdown of neuronal cells in the brain.
Along with cognitive support, turmeric provides flavor for various foods such as curry. You can consume turmeric in foods such as soups and vegetable dishes. Supplements like Organic Turmeric Curcumin Pills can also be used regularly for effective cognitive and memory support. This supplement is even enriched with black pepper to enhance the absorption of turmeric.
2. Gingko Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is a common remedial herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating dementia. Well-known for its merits, research has shown that this herb is able to provide cognitive support by:
- Encouraging circulation and stimulating blood flow to the brain
- Reducing blood viscosity
- Combatting free radicals
- Reducing age-related depletion of neurotransmitter receptors
- Enhancing cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment
Chlorella 500 mg is an excellent supplement that helps with age-related conditions such as neutralizing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Even though it's limited, but there is some evidence of drug interactions of Ginkgo biloba with other medications. So, it is important to consult your doctor before starting any supplements if you're already taking other prescribed medications.
Ginseng is a very popular plant in herbal medicine. It offers anti-inflammatory properties due to chemicals called ginsenosides. According to a review, researchers observed that ginsenosides have the ability to lower brain levels of beta-amyloid in preliminary lab studies.
Ginseng is one of the widely known and used herbal supplements for cognitive support in the past. As per the perspective of alternative medicine, ginseng is an 'adaptogen' which is a compound that provides prolific resistance to chemical, physical and biologic stress as well as potentiates vitality. Ginseng saponins or ginsenosides are active components that may be useful in treating Alzheimer's disease.
A report by Cochrane Collaboration evaluated the efficacy and adverse effects of different ginseng types used by healthy adults and adults with cognitive impairment or dementia. The review included small controlled trials. Although improvements in some aspects of cognitive function were reported, general conclusions on the benefits of ginseng could not be drawn because of the heterogeneity of the studies. No serious adverse events have been found with ginseng supplementation.
Ashwagandha is one of the ayurvedic plants used as alternative medicine, including others like Brahmi, Jatamansi, Jyotishmati, etc. Murthy et al. has shown in the 2010 review that Ashwagandha also inhibits the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.
Also known as Indian ginseng, Ashwagandha scientific name, Withania somnifera, WS. It is found in dry regions of Africa, South Asia, and Central Asia, predominantly in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, etc.
The scientific name 'somnifera' actually means 'sleep-inducer.' This corresponds to its widespread use to combat stress, induce calmness, and sleep. You can also use high-quality supplements like Beherbal's Deep Sleep to help improve your sleep.
What's more? Ashwagandha is also considered one of the essential herbs for the brain due to its oxidative-stress-reducing property that contributes to limiting Alzheimer's disease.
5. B-complex vitamins
Studies have shown that B-complex vitamins have highly beneficial effects on cognition. The complex includes vitamin B6, B9 (folate), and B12 (cyanocobalamin). According to research, vitamin B supplementation leads to increased homocysteine metabolism, elevated levels of which are related to a greater risk of dementia.
Deficiencies in vitamin B-complex is among one of the few causes of homocysteine elevation in the bloodstream. Thus, B-complex vitamins are regarded as quite helpful in reducing the risk of dementia in old age.
6. Vitamin E
The chemical compounds tocopherol and tocotrienol are referred to as vitamin E collectively, α-tocopherol being the standard form for medical use. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and its lipid-solubility enables it to pass through the blood-brain barrier, thereby exerting its effects on cell membranes. Being an antioxidant, vitamin E plays an essential role in curbing oxidative stress and contributing to the prevention and treatment of dementia.
A number of studies have explored the effects of vitamin E in the prevention of dementia among healthy individuals and those with MCI, as well as in delaying cognitive decline in patients with dementia.
A large observational study reported that healthy older adults taking antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and multivitamins were 50% less at risk of having cognitive decline at five years follow-up compared to those who did not.
Moreover, it has been evaluated if vitamin E supplementation can be used as a treatment option to decrease the progression of dementia. Although the results of these studies were promising, it is noteworthy that most of them used vitamin E supplementation rather than vitamin E-rich foods.
It is important to note that the intake of vitamin E supplementation in doses greater than 400 IU per day can be harmful. It is thus imperative to consult a doctor before starting your vitamin E supplementation.
7. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) belong to a group of polyunsaturated FAs (PUFAs) that contain carbon-carbon double bonds in its structure. How they play a role in cognitive support and reducing the risk of dementia progression include:
- Reduction in cardiovascular disease and stroke
- A decline in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
- Preservation of brain cell membrane and maintenance of neuronal function
- A decrease in β-amyloid with a reduction in production and an increase in clearance
Furthermore, the intake of omega-3 fatty acid supplements also plays a key role in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disorders.
8. Vitamin A and C
Vitamin A, also called β-carotene, and vitamin C, have antioxidant capabilities. Their antioxidant property gives them cognition-enhancement ability and allows them to prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
Vitamin A also called retinol and consists of biologically active metabolites retinoic acid and retinaldehyde. It is derived from provitamin carotenoids and preformed retinoids. β-carotene is most commonly found in foods. Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, has a biologically active compound called dehydroascorbic acid,
A randomized controlled trial of β-carotene supplementation was done. 50 mg was given on alternating days. The short- and long-term effects of β-carotene supplements on cognition were observed. The researchers concluded that although there was no effect of short-term use of the supplement on cognitive function, long-term use was associated with cognitive benefits in comparison to the placebo. While the findings were promising, it is not clearly understood if a little difference in cognitive test scores resonates with clinically pertinent outcomes.
Furthermore, vitamin C supplementation of 500 mg per day was given. Its effects on mental activity were found to be associated with improved performance on the last evaluation done on the 5-year follow-up.
Subsequently, the prospective benefits must be balanced by the toxic effects. There is a risk of toxicity and adverse effects, particularly at high doses. As such, elevated doses of carotenoids are connected to an increased risk of conditions like lung cancer in smokers. If vitamin A is taken in toxic amounts for long-term (15 mg per day or more in adults for months), the manifestations include hypercalcemia, bone demineralization, and pain. Alongside, vitamin C is generally well-tolerated but can cause hemolysis in patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency.
9. Vitamin D
Being a secosteroid hormone, vitamin D has bone and non-bone targets. Most of the tissues consist of vitamin D receptors. Vitamin D is produced in the largest organ of the body, the skin as cholecalciferol. It can also be found in dietary sources as vitamin D3 or D2 (ergocalciferol).
Vitamins D3 and D2 are broken down in the liver and kidneys for excretion to 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D (calcitriol), respectively. The binding of vitamin D in the brain occurs with the vitamin D receptors identified in the human cortex and hippocampus –which mark the primary areas for cognitive support. The effects of the activation of this receptor include anti-neurodegenerative effects, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anti-ischemic outcomes. Thus, vitamin D is also expected to give the same outcomes.
According to a systematic review, a positive association is found between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and cognitive performance. Inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D in older adult females in a cross-sectional study was found to have an association between inadequate dietary intake of vitamin D per week and poorer cognitive performance. One more cross-sectional study was done on patients aged 65 years, and more reported an elevated risk of cognitive impairment vitamin D deficiency associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
The phospholipids that include phosphatidylserine (PS) and phosphatidylcholine are among the top utilized substances for memory complaints in older adults. Phospholipids are key components of neuronal membranes. Thus, phospholipid supplementation provides a safe and effective way to prevent cognitive decline.
The inner plasma membrane of mammals consists of PS in phospholipids and plays a key role in the activity of neuronal membranes, like cell-to-cell communication, cell growth regulation, and signal transduction.
A review by the Cochrane Collaboration analyzed the effect on memory and behavior in the short and medium-term intake of phospholipids. The study showed a positive outcome, particularly in patients with cognitive disorders connected with cerebrovascular conditions, at a dosage of 600-1000 mg phospholipid (cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine) supplementation. This was found to be an effective treatment for emotional, behavioral, and cognitive deficiency in older adult patients with cognitive impairment or dementia.
Conclusively, there is an array of supplements out there that provides the necessary cognitive support, e.g., Spark – the Cognitive Support Formula. Nevertheless, before starting your supplementation, always consult your doctor about it in order to be safe and ensure the best possible results.
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