Memory and brain functions have been bunched under the title of cognition. Advancing age is a known risk factor for cognitive impairment. Since physicians don’t have drug therapies, people often turn towards complementary and alternative medicine systems to preserve or enhance cognition. Moreover, with growing academic pressure on students, boosting brain faculties is always welcome. Dietary supplements are the most common form of alternative medicines that patients use.
It has been known since the Vedic times that relative abundance of certain nutrients can increase cognitive processes. Newer studies have shown the effect of certain dietary factors on neuronal function and synaptic plasticity.
Supplements that have a proven benefit include:
- Ginkgo biloba: A powerful herb from Ayurveda, it has been used over many generations for cognitive health. It improves cerebrovascular circulation, reduces free radical generation and inhibits age-related reduction of neurotransmitter receptors. It plays an important role in preventing dementia and cognitive decline. Its potency is very similar to large doses of drugs being pushed to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish oil supplements or Docosahexanoic acid (DHA) has piqued a lot of interest. It is the single most essential nutrient that can stimulate the brain to function better. Omega-3 fatty acid is a major building block of cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for cognition and attention. It also plays a role in neuronal conduction. It has been strongly linked to lowering risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin B6, B9 and B12: Deficiency of Vitamin B increases homocysteine levels, which adversely affects cognition and is associated with increased risk of dementia. Although studies have not shown a substantial benefit of using Vitamin Bo, it continues to be the most commonly used supplement.
- Vitamin E: Oxidative stress is hypothesized to increase brain damage and lead to dementia. Vitamin E is a lipid soluble vitamin, which crosses the blood-brain barrier and exerts it protective antioxidant effects.
- Creatine: It not just boosts memory and brainpower, but also helps to develop muscle mass and strength. Increased availability of phosphocreatine helps with increasing ATP synthesis and better energy formation. Thus, it helps to increase short-term memory and reasoning skills.
- Choline and Piracetam: Choline serves as a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Combining it with Piracetam increases its potential for improving memory potential and treating neuro-degenerative conditions. Piracetam enhances Choline uptake, mainly in regions responsible for memory formation.
- Asian ginseng: A herb, it has been traditionally used to obviate fatigue and uplift mood. It has garnered a lot of attention for its ability to enhance memory, focus and attention. It can also improve performance and physical endurance.
- Caffeine: Caffeine use is associated with rise in focus, motivation and mood and of course memory. A cup of coffee before studying can significantly boost memory. But overuse of caffeine can lead to anxiety, palpitations and tremors. Adding L-theanine to caffeine negates its side effects, while potentiating its positives and relaxation.
- Phosphatidylserine: A phospholipid, phosphatidylserine is an important part of cell membrane of neurons. It is found in high concentration within the brain. It regulates nutrients entering into the brain. It helps with ADHD and inattention problems by increasing focus and attention and boosting memory.
The choice of using cognitive enhancers lies up to the user. But have realistic expectations and know that there is no such thing as an all-rounder supplement for brainpower. To pick the best cognitive enhancer, expert physician guidance or your personal experience are the best guides. Try using the natural boosters before jumping onto medicinal drugs. The slow and imperceptible cognitive decline can be successfully managed with brain food and good dietary goals.