The Importance of Supporting Brain Function
How do you keep the mind mentally sharp and maintain a good memory?
Everyone wants to be mentally sharp and have good cognition, memory and have good mental recall. It is important to keep the whole nervous system healthy, which includes the brain, spinal cord and all the nerves.
To keep the brain healthy one should try to eat a well-balanced diet, reducing sugar consumption, exercise daily and if you are a smoker, then quit since it can be harmful to the brain. In addition, try to keep the mind stimulated engaging in games, reading, improving computer skills or gardening.
It has been shown that chronic stress and ageing influence cognitive health including learning and memory. There are novel strategies that have been shown to help keep the mind healthy such as nutritional interventions. Phospholipids are one particular type of molecule that helps the nervous system and has the ability to help improve cognitive processes in humans. There are other nutrients that are also essential for brain health.
Phospholipids are molecules that contain fatty acids, glycerol, and phosphorous. The brain is one of the major regions that contain them. They form the membrane lipid bilayers of brain cells that include neurons and glia cells. Phospholipids provide the strength to the structure of proteins that are found in the brain intracellular and cell surface membranes. Dietary phospholipids have been studied since the early 1900’s.
Choline is essential and necessary to keep the body, including the brain healthy and functioning properly. It is essential in manufacturing the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It is found in foods such as fish, eggs, meat, nuts, beans and spinach.
Choline is not a vitamin, however because of its similarity, it sometimes is grouped with the B vitamins. The bitartrate part is a salt of tartaric acid and is attached to help to deliver choline.
PC is a cousin of choline as a supplement, where the phospholipid is attached to a choline particle. It has been shown that consumption of PC can support acetylcholine in the brain.
PS is also found in the brain and helps to cover and protect brain cells and is involved as a messenger. It is essential to keep the brain functioning properly and helping memory. In the body, it is reduced with age.
PE is a group of phospholipids that are found in membranes especially in the brain’s white matter, nerves, and in the spinal cord.
Phosphotidylinositol is part of a family of phospholipids also located in cell membranes, which interact with important proteins. By studying the brain, it was revealed their importance.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Omega 3 fatty acid
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid which is critically important for the brain. It is found naturally made by the body, but it is also necessary to consume from dietary sources such as from cold-water fish or from fish oil and other dietary supplements.
The B Vitamins
B vitamins are water soluble vitamins and do not have the ability to be stored. In addition, most of them are unable to be made in the body, therefore they need to be consumed in food or supplements. They are needed for brain function and have been shown to be important for the conduction and transmission of nerves.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine):
B1 is important for the brain because certain enzymes are dependent on it to supply nutrients to the brain, which affects concentration and memory. It is found in foods such as whole grains, meat and fish and in supplements.
B2 is necessary to produce Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy for the brain. It is important for memory and is neuroprotective. Foods rich in riboflavin include fish, meat, poultry and mushrooms, but also found in supplements.
Niacin is important to the brain and is involved in manufacturing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and is believed to help with reduced mental decline. It is found in foods such as poultry, fish, brown rice, lentils and legumes and in supplements.
Pantothenic acid is needed to help make energy in cells, and helps to maintain brain cell’s structure and function. It has been shown to be important to regions of the brain such as the cerebellum and motor cortex. It is a part of Coenzyme-A (CoA), which is needed to make the brain neurotransmitters acetylcholine and serotonin. These brain neurotransmitters effect mental cognition and memory. Foods rich in pantothenic acid include Fortified cereals, chicken, beef, fish and yogurt, but also in supplements.
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin):
Vitamin B12 is needed for the manufacturing of energy for the brain and necessary for helping to make key brain neurotransmitters and signaling molecules. It is believed that there is a connection between B12 and improved cognitive function during aging. It is found in dairy, chicken, some other meats, eggs and seafood and supplements. It is important to note that vegetarians or those consuming a plant-based diet may lack vitamin B12 in their diet.
Ginkgo Biloba extract:
Ginkgo biloba is a botanical extract that has amazing flavonoids and terpenoids with antioxidant properties. It has been traditionally used for blood circulation and memory.
DMAE is a compound that is naturally manufactured in the body. It is believed to assist in producing acetylcholine. It is found in sardines, salmon and anchovies, sometimes called brain food.
Additional Brain Supporting Nutrients
L-PCA (L-pyroglutamic acid)
L-PCA is a naturally occurring amino acid in which the body manufactures. It is believed to help with brain function because it is involved with manufacturing brain neurotransmitters. It is found in fruits and vegetables.
L Glutamine as an amino acid and a precursor for the neurotransmitter glutamate, which and plays a critical role in the normal functioning of the brain.
Gotu Kola extract and Rosemary extract
Gotu kola is an extract from a plant which is traditionally used by the Chinese for longevity and for the brain. Rosemary is a spice that has been commonly used for memory.
If you have a health condition and or take medication, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider prior to taking supplements.
Kennedy DO. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy--A Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68.
Schverer M, O'Mahony SM, O’Riordan KJ et al. Dietary phospholipids: Role in cognitive processes across the lifespan. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020;111:183-193.