When it comes to protecting your brain, modern medicine has all but hoisted the white flag. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. In fact, there are a number of natural supplements that have shown tremendous potential for supporting cognitive function and keeping you mentally sharp.
Let’s start with chocolate. Cocoa flavonols have been shown to support all sorts of critical functions in the body—from heart health to blood sugar balance to a healthy inflammatory response.
Now, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows cocoa flavonols may also play an important role in helping people maintain optimal cognitive health.
Researchers had a group of 90 older adults drink a cocoa beverage each day for eight weeks. One group got a high-flavonol cocoa drink, another got an “intermediate” flavonol cocoa beverage, and the last group got a low-flavonol version. The researchers tested the subjects’ cognitive ability using memory, retention, recall and executive function, both at the outset of the study and again at the end.
They found those who consumed the high-flavonol cocoa drinks showed a significant improvement in overall cognitive function after only eight weeks.
If you want to get all the brain-supporting benefits chocolate has to offer, it’s important to find a quality source. In other words, grabbing a candy bar at the corner convenience store won’t cut it. Look for minimally processed dark chocolate with at least 70 to 85 percent cacao. Or, if you like the idea of drinking a cocoa beverage, check out my CocoaLogic drink mix.
Beyond cocoa flavonols, there are plenty of other supplements that can support cognitive function too. For instance, there’s a huge amount of research supporting vitamin E’s ability to help maintain brain health.
I usually recommend 800 IU of vitamin E per day, from a supplement that combines all eight of the tocopherols and tocotrienols. But some of the research on cognitive function has shown more benefits using a higher dose (2,000 IU). This protocol appeared to be completely safe in studies, but it’s always a good idea to work with a knowledgeable practitioner.
Vitamin D also appears to be a critical nutrient when it comes to staying mentally sharp as you age. I recommend at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
Two other proven, natural brain boosters are vitamin B and fish oil. I recommend taking a quality B complex supplement every day. And upping your intake of foods rich in these nutrients certainly won’t hurt either. Animal products like fish, poultry, meat, and eggs are your best food sources of vitamin B12 (clams and liver are particularly rich in this nutrient). Tuna, chicken, turkey, and cantaloupe offer up a good dose of B6. And spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of folic acid.
And make sure to get at least 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA from fish oil every day too.
Last but not least, your brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and blood in order to function properly. So it’s essential to support the blood vessels that deliver these vital substances to every part of your body—including the tiniest places in your brain. (That’s one of the reasons I developed my CircuLogic formula.)
The bottom line: when it comes to keeping your brain healthy and your memory sharp, Mother Nature knows best.
Dr. Fred Pescatore is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Hamptons Diet and the No. 1 best-selling children’s health book, Feed Your Kids Well, amongst others. He is the President of the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists, a member of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine, and belongs to many other professional organizations. Earlier in his career, Dr. Pescatore served as the Associate Medical Director of The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, working as the right-hand-man to the late, great Dr. Robert C. Atkins. Today he sees patients at his own practice in Manhattan and writes a monthly newsletter called Logical Health Alternatives, as well as a free e-letter called The Reality Health Check.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, epub ahead of print 12/17/14 (doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.092189)
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