Brain AgingThe brain is considered our most vital organ, responsible for everything from involuntary life support functions like heartbeat and breathing to the essence of personality and memory.
Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging. They may be a sign that brain cells are failing.
Scientists now believe that brain aging is related to chemical and physical changes in the brain. New findings in brain aging indicate that the rate of change may be hastened or slowed by lifestyle factors. For instance, maintaining a lower body weight might favorably affect brain aging. Strict control of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, consuming a healthy diet, the use of certain vitamins, physical exercise and mental exercise help keep the brain functioning at its peak.
Although researchers acknowledge that genes play a large role in predetermining our brain's aging, they are beginning to agree that taking care of our health might help our long-term brain function.
Alzheimer's DiseaseAlzheimer’s disease (AD), a progressive, degenerative brain disease, is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist. AD causes progressive brain changes that lead to declines of memory, judgment, ability to carry out usual daily activities, and personality changes. Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for AD.
AD is the most common cause of dementia, which is the loss of intellectual and social abilities severe enough to interfere with daily functioning. Delaying the onset of AD is an important step in fighting the disease.
Ginkgo BilobaGinkgo is an extract from the dried leaves of the Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba). It remains as one of the most popular plant extracts used in Europe to alleviate symptoms associated with a range of cognitive disorders such as AD, vascular dementia and age-related memory loss. In both young and aged healthy persons, Ginkgo biloba extract has been shown in studies to improve short-term memory and long-term memory. Positive effects of Ginkgo have also been shown in patients with age-related memory impairment with diagnosis of cerebral insufficiency, and a modest but significant effect has been shown in patients with AD.
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsOne of the major building blocks of the brain, omega-3 fatty acids are critical for optimal brain health and function at all ages of life. Researchers are now finding that omega-3 fatty acids provide brain-boosting benefits in infants and aging adults.
Most scientists and medical authorities agree that a higher intake of omega-3 oils is important for good health. This is based on a large number of well-conducted studies, which have shown that omega-3 oils improve brain function, decrease inflammation, reduce the incidence of fatal heart attacks and ischemic strokes, improve the outcome of autoimmune diseases, and improve vision.
Of particular interest are the beneficial effects of omega-3 oils on nerve function and brain protection. For instance, a number of studies have shown that higher intakes of omega-3 oils significantly reduce the incidence of AD as well as vascular dementia, and improve quality of life and memory in those affected by dementia.
CholineThe common name for phosphatidylcholine, lecithin provides most of the choline in our diet. Lecithin is a major constituent of all cell membranes, the biological "wrappers" that keep cells from leaking. Its presence is necessary for normal cell function. Lecithin supplementation has been shown in studies to support healthy cholesterol levels, and liver and brain function.
Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the normal development of the brain, especially the memory center (hippocampus) of the brain. Choline is required for the synthesis of key neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is vital for thought, memory and sleep, and is also involved in the control of movements.
The production of acetylcholine decreases with age, resulting in poor memory, diminished learning ability and cognitive decline in general. AD has been associated with a deficit of acetylcholine in the brain.
A study published in the Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging journal showed that ingested choline does get into the brain. Choline obtained from our diet may be important for the normal production of acetylcholine and lecithin in the brain.
InositolInositol is a fundamental ingredient of cell membranes and is necessary for proper function of nerves, brain and muscles in the body. Inositol is required for the proper function of several brain neurotransmitters. It promotes healthy brain development and function, and has a calming effect on the central nervous system. Together with choline, inositol is important for concentration power.
Source: Babb SM, et al. Oral choline increases choline metabolites in human brain. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 2004; 130: 1-9; Nathan, P. Can the cognitive enhancing effects of Ginkgo biloba be explained by its pharmacology? Medical Hypotheses 2000; 55 (6): 491-193.