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Supplements and Brain Health

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Supplements and brain health are debated. That is to say that some people think that nutritional supplementation supports brain health and some other people think the opposite.

What I think comes from both my personal experience as well as research. I am a long-term cancer survivor who has struggled with a long-term side effect called chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction aka chemobrain.

man hand holding his nutritional supplemets, healthy lifestyle background.

Sure, I’m no spring chicken but 64 is not that old. More importantly, there are dozens of studies documenting the benefit of nutritional supplementation to brain health.

My point is that I have lived with mild cognitive impairment due to chemobrain and it is clear to me that nutritional supplementation helps my brain function. But I also have to plug the information in the article linked below.

What non-conventional therapies improve cognitive impairment?

  1. Mindfulness Meditation: This practice involves focusing on the present moment and acknowledging thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. Studies suggest that mindfulness meditation can improve attention, memory, and cognitive flexibility.
  2. Acupuncture: Traditional Chinese medicine practice involving the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. Some studies suggest that acupuncture may improve cognitive function, although results are mixed.
  3. Music Therapy: Engaging in music activities, such as listening to music, playing instruments, or singing, may have cognitive benefits. Music therapy has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and enhance cognitive function in some individuals.
  4. Art Therapy: Engaging in creative activities, such as painting, drawing, or sculpting, may stimulate cognitive function and improve emotional well-being. Art therapy has been used to enhance cognitive skills and promote self-expression in individuals with cognitive impairment.
  5. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): This non-invasive procedure involves the use of magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. TMS has shown potential in improving cognitive function in conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.
  6. Cognitive Training Programs: Various computer-based programs and exercises are designed to improve cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. These programs often use brain training games and activities to challenge and stimulate cognitive function.
  7. Physical Exercise: Regular exercise has been linked to improved cognitive function and may help prevent cognitive decline. Activities such as aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga have all been associated with cognitive benefits.
  8. Nutritional Supplements: Certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins (e.g., B vitamins), and antioxidants, have been studied for their potential to improve cognitive function. However, evidence supporting their efficacy is mixed, and further research is needed.

Optimizing your brain health requires a spectrum of therapies all shown to improve your brain function. Therefore consider the therapies 1-8 above as well as those therapies in the bullet points below such as caffeine, CoQ10, etc. Yes, there is some overlap.

Are you trying to boost your mild cognitive impairment? Are you hoping to improve your brain health? Let me know at David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Can a supplements really improve your brain health? 

“No wonder an estimated 1 in 5 adults over the age of 50 have purchased a brain healthsupplement…

In reality, many Americans struggle to find and afford nutritious food. And older adults face unique challenges that can contribute to nutrient deficiencies. “Often, they’re not cooking as much. Or they’re on a medication that can affect how the body absorbs nutrients,” Baker says…

Now, it turns out that a humble multivitamin could prove to be an important tool in the fight against cognitive decline. In one important new study, researchers followed more than 2,000 older adults for three years. They were randomly assigned into groups taking a placebo, multivitamin, cocoa extract, or a combo of vitamins and cocoa extract.

The people who took a daily multivitamin showed improvements in cognition and memory equivalent to slowing cognitive aging by about 1.8 years over the three-year period — and the people taking the cocoa extract or the placebo did not…

Other supplements and brain health

Beyond multivitamins, there are certain nutrients touted to help with memory and cognition. Popular supplements for brain health include:

  • Caffeine
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Turmeric/curcumin
  • Vitamin D

Some have been studied more than others. But there’s no proof that any of them are a slam dunk for preventing memory loss. Let’s look at three supplements as examples.

1. Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo biloba comes from a tree native to China, and its extract contains lots of antioxidants, which are substances that may help prevent cell damage in the body. One older, small study looked at older adults with mild age-related memory impairment. Those who took ginkgo biloba performed better on cognitive tests…

2. Vitamin D. Your body doesn’t need ginkgo biloba to survive. But it does require vitamin D to function properly. And some studies have found a link between low levels of vitamin D and memory problems.

Does that mean that taking more vitamin D could boost cognition? A few small studies have suggested that vitamin D supplements might improve some brain function. But again, the evidence just isn’t there to say vitamin D pills can protect against dementia. A recent large study showed no difference in cognitive function in people taking vitamin D for two years compared to a placebo control group. This is why GCBH, the independent research group, doesn’t recommend taking vitamin D to improve memory.

Still, vitamin D is an essential nutrient. And approximately 35% of adults in the United States don’t get enough of it. A simple blood test can confirm whether you’re one of them. If so, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids. Many claim that these buzzy nutrients are essential fats for brain health. But your body doesn’t make them on its own. Omega-3s are plentiful in fatty fish (like salmon), as well as flax and chia seeds. Because many people don’t get enough in their diet, doctors sometimes recommend taking a supplement.

There has been contradictory research on the benefits. But a few recent reviews — which looked at data from multiple studies — do suggest increasing omega-3 may be worth it for brain health…

According to another review in Cureus, omega-3s improved memory, cognitive well-being, and blood flow in the brain. These researchers, however, did encourage dietary intake of omega-3s versus supplements, if possible. They noted that fish have the highest concentrations of DHA and another important omega-3 fat, EPA.

The bottom line: There is hope that certain supplements might help keep your brain sharp as you age. But right now, we need more research to prove it.

Of course, if you’re curious about trying a supplement, your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons. They can also talk to you about the many other things you can do to boost brain health. That includes prioritizing sleep, eating colorful foods, moving your body, and spending time with friends and family. As you keep your brain active, you’ll also be strengthening your overall health.

You can sharpen your focus, speed up your thinking, and strengthen your memory with BrainHQ. Did you know that it may be included with your Medicare Advantage plan? Check your eligibility today.

Additional sources:
Survey on supplement use in older adults: AARP
U.S. supplement market: Grand View Research
Study on Prevagen’s claims: The Senior Care Pharmacist
Global Council on Brain Health report: The Real Deal on Brain Health Supplements 
Large multivitamin study: Alzheimer’s & Dementia
Small ginkgo studies showing benefits: Clinical Therapeutics
Larger trial on ginkgo: JAMA
Review of research on ginkgo and dementia: Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Large trial on vitamin D: Nature Scientific Reports
Vitamin D deficiency: Cleveland Clinic
Study review on omega-3s and dementia: American Journal of Nutrition
Study review on omega-3s and memory: Cureus



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