What is Brain Care?
When it comes to keeping your brain healthy as you age, your diet plays a big role. Eating a variety of foods is critical to getting the vitamins and nutrients your brain needs to keep performing at its best. Eating whole foods is the best way to get those nutrients. Supplements for brain health can be taken if advised by the doctor but when you eat a balanced diet, the combination of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats (and more) help the body better absorb the nutrients it needs. These are necessary for brain health:
B vitamins like B6, B12, and B9 (folic acid) all play a role in brain health. But unless you’re low on them or pregnant (folic acid is a must to prevent birth defects), a supplement is unlikely to help. If you’re at high risk for Alzheimer’s, ask your doctor. The research into the use of vitamin B supplements to boost cognitive ability is inconclusive. You should stick with food sources like leafy greens to stay sharp.
Caffeine pills and powders aren’t a good idea, because of the risks if you overdose. But you can enjoy coffee guilt-free, as long as it doesn’t worsen your sleep or make you jittery. Some might be good for your brain. It’s a stimulant that helps perk you up, plus it promotes energy by blocking brain receptors for a chemical called adenosine.
A natural amino acid, L-theanine seems to have the potential for improving mental performance, especially when combined with caffeine. That said, most studies have been small, such as one in 2019 that included 30 people. Until there’s more research, a safe bet is to drink green tea: It naturally contains both L-theanine and caffeine, as well as antioxidants that may help your mental and physical well-being in other ways.
The traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes omega 3-rich-fish, is linked to a lower risk of dementia. But can omega-3 supplements help? So far, large studies (including one sponsored by the National Institutes of Health) haven’t proved that. One possible exception: People with the APOE4 gene mutation, which is tied to Alzheimer’s, might benefit if they start taking the supplements early enough, a 2017 review shows.
This antioxidant combats free radicals, including those that may damage brain cells. But large studies aimed at finding out whether vitamin E supplements can protect against dementia haven’t yielded great results, though at least one study found that they might slow the worsening of Alzheimer’s in people who already have it.
Found in turmeric (an ingredient in curry powder), curcumin has been hailed for its antioxidant powers. Does it help explain why Alzheimer’s rates are lower in India? A UCLA study found that people who took curcumin fared better on memory tests and had less buildup of abnormal proteins in their brains.
In Europe, CDP-choline isn’t sold as a dietary supplement. Instead, it’s a prescription drug. According to researchers who reviewed 14 studies, there’s decent evidence that it can benefit memory in elderly people who already have memory problems. But whether it can prevent them in healthy people isn’t clear. Ask your doctor if you’re thinking of trying it.