Nutritional Support for the Brain

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Proper nutrition can help support aging brains. Here are some supplement suggestions for staying mentally sharp (take them with meals, unless otherwise noted):

A high-quality multinutrient formula. I recommend a good multi for everyone because it’s an excellent way to support overall wellness. For brain health, look for formulas that contain more than the RDA of the major members of the B vitamin family (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, B6, and B12). B vitamins support the integrity of the nervous system. You may also want to include extra vitamin B12 (100–200 mcg), which becomes depleted in the elderly, along with 100–250 mg of niacin (vitamin B3).

Calamarine or fish oil (2–3 g daily). The brain is high in fatty tissue, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an important component of squid and fish oil. Supplemental DHA is taken up by the brain tissue, where it is not only anti-inflammatory, but it preserves neuronal function. Mouse studies have linked dietary DHA to decreases in the abnormal fibrous protein plaques associated with neurodegenerative diseases. A study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging is now under way to determine whether regular DHA supplementation slows the progression of cognitive and functional decline in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Resveratrol (25–100 mg daily). This flavonoid compound found in grapes has been shown to preserve brain function. Though we used to think you needed big dosages to realize this effect, we now know that even small doses, as suggested here, are protective.

Carnosine (500 mg, three times daily). This amino acid combination of alanine and histidine is naturally present in high concentrations in the brain. Multiple studies show that it inhibits free-radical damage, plaque formation, and the creation of advanced glycation end products.

“Nutritional Support for the Brain” originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Heart, Health & Nutrition, © 2009 Healthy Directions, LLC. All rights reserved. HMDI has reprinted it with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC.

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