Where Did I Leave My Keys?
• What 4 Steps Help Maintain Memory?
• Which Supplements Support The Brain?
• What 8 Areas Of Aging Can We Control?
• How Does Inflammation Affect Memory?
Are You One Of Over 43 Million People Suffering From Memory Loss?
Look Inside And Change Your Mind….
In groundbreaking studies at Tufts University, lab rats representing 60-65 year old humans were fed a common human food daily.
After eight weeks, the rats (now 70-75 human years) were tested for memory function. They overcame normal age-related neuromotor dysfunction and showed improved learning and memory skills.
What did they eat? To learn the ANSWER, read on….
If you are reading this article and you’re over 40….
you may be having memory lapses that are worrying you. Unfortunately, for many of us the worry is that we may be getting Alzheimer’s.
Today, Alzheimer’s disease outranks both heart disease and cancer as the primary fear of older Americans. With time, this fear can prove to have some foundation.
There are experts who predict that by the year 2020 Alzheimer’s disease may strike as many as 10 million individuals.
However, unless you carry certain very rare genetic mutations, you don’t have to worry. The guidelines in this Nutrition News are a wonderful place to start maintaining your memory.
With millions of “baby boomers” experiencing memory lapses, maintaining memory is a hot topic. In this issue, we look at some of the most promising approaches.
One of these is the use of effective dietary supplements. These are virtually free of the side effects associated with expensive prescription medications. The bottomline is to embrace a health-giving and brain friendly lifestyle.
Rest assured, there are many ways to remain mentally capable for life.
Is It Brain Freeze?
Around age 40, the brain begins to shrink and we begin to lose brain cells (neurons) and cerebrospinal fluid. This plus a build up of brain plaque results in short-circuiting nerve connections.1
Some of the first signs of failing memory are a tendency to “misplace” things or forget the names of people just introduced to us. (This is when many of us get scared.)
In The Edge Effect: How the Balanced Brain Can Give You an Advantage in Life, Eric Braverman, MD, emphasizes the importance of recognizing what is happening to our bodies so that we can take “effective countermeasures”.
In Female and Forgetful, Lottor and Bruning point out that men’s and women’s brains age differently. Women suffer a greater loss of neural tissue related to memory and to visual and spatial abilities than men.
Also women are more likely to form brain plaque. As a consequence, more women than men are diagnosed with dementia. The authors define the 10s of millions of women in perimenopause as victims of a “silent epidemic of memory loss”.
Men also suffer a decline in memory and other cognitive functions. However, because their hormone levels decrease more gradually than women’s, it appears they are protected from the acute and often dramatic effects women experience during and after menopause.
Additionally, research shows that brain atrophy in men typically occurs in areas related to thinking and feeling rather than memory.
In one last gender-related debility, women are more likely to have low-functioning thyroid glands than men. Cognitive impairment is among the symptoms of this disease.
In her writings, the late Nan Kathryn Fuchs, PhD, reported that some researchers believe that as many as one in four women are hypothyroid. Dr. Nan thinks this may be attributed to an iodine deficiency and suggests that women get their thyroid levels tested.2
On his website, Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, a pioneer in brain longevity, says, “…I am convinced…that short term memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented and treated using an integrative or holistic medical program.”3
In his books and interviews, Khalsa reminds us that the brain is flesh and blood. In other words, it doesn’t exist separate from us, rather it has the same health care demands as the rest of the body. This is the gold ring as we seek to keep our brain as high-functioning as possible.
Is It Brain Freeze?
1 Brain or senile plaques are extracellular deposits that interfere with normal nerve transmissions.
2 See Nutrition News, “Celebrating Women’s Health” for information about this test.
3 Dr. Khalsa is not a relative of Siri Khalsa, the creator and editor of Nutrition News.
4 Step Memory-Boosting Program
The four basic steps are: 1) managing stress; 2) eating health-giving foods; 3) body/mind exercise; and 4) using supportive supplements. We cover the first three in this section.
1. Managing Stress
Because of the negative impact of stress hormones on the brain, managing stress is the first step toward safeguarding memory. Chronic stress overloads the brain with powerful hormones intended to be there only briefly for emergency situations.
The cumulative effects of these substances damages and kills brain cells. This is especially injurious to our ability to remember and learn. (See Nutrition News, “Relax”.)
2. Feeding The Brain
Food is equal to stress in its potential for damaging the brain. Eating substandard foods causes stress. Junk foods simply do not contain the nutrition needed to support a healthy brain.
One example is fats. If the good fats the body needs for the brain are not available, it will substitute with whatever you feed it. The result is hardened cell walls which cannot pass intercellular messages effectively.
Conversely, fresh, whole foods deliver a healthy, lively brain. Such foods accompanied by a basic supplement plan are the basis for today’s good nutrition.(See “Step 4: Supplement Support”.)
Also, stay hydrated by drinking 6-8 (eight ounce) glasses of purified water every day. (Other beverages don’t count.)
3. Exercising Body AND Mind
Bringing regular exercise to both body and mind is the third step in memory maintenance. Everybody understands that physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain (It is also an effective way to reduce stress.)
To flex our mental muscles, crossword puzzles, brainteasers, and trivia games are useful. Other simple mental exercises include repeating number series and self-quizzing by reading a news story and then summarizing the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions in writing.
Khalsa recommends “mind/body exercise” such as yoga, martial arts, and dance.
A new way to exercise the brain, reduce stress, and improve sleep involves using a cranial electrical stimulation device (CES). Electrodes are attached to the earlobes for a gentle pulsating effect while one relaxes for 45 minutes.
4 Step Supplement Support
Supplementation is an indispensable step in our efforts to counter brain aging. Below we list the consensus supplements for boosting brain power.
In addition to these, a basic supplement plan contains a vitamin-mineral formula, additional vitamin C (1-3 grams), additional vitamin D3 (at least 1000 IU), additional vitamin E, vitamin K2 (90 mcg, not in your multi), additional calcium (up to 2 grams), additional magnesium (from 1/2 to equal to the amount of calcium), and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil contains a combination of EPA and DHA fatty acids). We recommend an adaptogen. In this case, it is ashwagandha.
To emphasize the importance of taking a daily multi, a 2010 study from Oxford University showed that after two years of receiving 500 mcg daily of vitamin B12, 20 mg of B6, and 800 mcg of folic acid, treated participants showed 30% less brain shrinkage than those given a placebo.4
Stress hormones, particularly cortisol, cause a great deal of free radical damage. For this reason many of the recommended supplements are antioxidants.
Others enhance blood flow, carrying additional oxygen and nutrition to the brain. Yet another property is the promotion of helpful brain biochemicals. In addition, many of these nutrients work together, producing synergistic effects.
In his multimedia book, The Better Memory Kit, Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, makes the following general supplement recommendations:
• Vitamin E 800 – 1000 IU
• Coenzyme Q10 100 mg
• Alpha lipoic acid 100 mg
• Acetyl L-carnitine 100 – 1500 mg
• Phosphatidylserine 300 mg
• DHA (omega-3) 1000 mg
• Ginkgo biloba 120 – 240 mg
Vitamin E, well-known for its antioxidant capacity, keeps cholesterol from turning “rancid” and forming plaque that narrows the artery walls.
Researchers at Duke and Utah State found that seniors whose diets were highest in vitamins E and C (usually maintained by supplementation)5 were as much as 78% less likely to develop dementia.
Lipoic acid occurs naturally in the body but when supplemented becomes a powerful antioxidant that enhances the effects of other antioxidants. It is thought to improve memory via its protective effects on brain and nerve tissue.
Acetyl-l-carnitine, a metabolite of the amino acid L-carnitine, boosts brain power, guards against neurological damage, and transports fatty acids to the cells. (Brain cells are very high in fatty acids.)
Writing for Holistic Primary Care, David Larsen, an Alzheimer’s researcher, notes that ALC also promotes the production of acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter, improving both mood and memory.
The last three supplements can achieve more for brain function and memory when taken together than any one taken alone.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is essential to the formation of brain cell membrane. This membrane lends structure to the cell and is part of nerve impulse transmission.
The beneficial effect of PS supplementation on thought processing has resulted in two FDA-approved health claims for the elderly: 1) reduced risk of dementia and 2) of cognitive dysfunctions.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a primary constituent of neurons and is an omega-3 essential fatty acid imperative to brain development. It occurs in fish oil and sea algae, along with EPA.
Brain cell survival is highly dependent on the presence of DHA to incorporate PS into brain cell membranes. A deficiency can result in depression, memory loss, and dementia.
Most of the population is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. (See Nutrition News, “The Fats of Life, Revealed”.)
Ginkgo biloba, the well known memory enhancing herb, is a blood flow enhancer and antioxidant. Lottor and Bruning write about the ability of PS to combine with ginkgo to elevate mood. Together with PS and DHA, we deliver 1-2-3 boost to brain power.6
Additionally, ashwagandha (Wathania somifera), the Ayurvedic herb often called Indian ginseng, appears to be the perfect anti-aging supplement.
A potent adaptogen, recent studies have demonstrated that ashwagandha has important mechanisms which can help prevent brain aging.7
With aging, an enzyme which degrades acetylcholine increases in the brain. The result can be severe short term memory loss. In trials completed with lab mice, researchers discovered that ashwagandha inhibits this enzyme much the same way as Aricept®, a drug currently prescribed for Alzheimer’s patients.
Further tests have shown that ashwagandha improves memory, and that it also provides protection against stroke.
Other studies have shown the herb to have anti-stress, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and general physical rejuvenating properties.
Load ashwagandha at 6 grams daily in divided doses (2000 mg, 3x/d) for two months. Then gradually reduce to a dose of 300 mg once or twice daily.
Cover Question ANSWER: The rejuvenated lab rats noted on the front cover ate blueberries.
In groundbreaking studies at Tufts University, the animals representing 60-65 year old humans were fed the equivalent of one-half cup blueberries daily as dried blueberry extract.
After eight weeks, the now 70-75 year old rats did not show the age-related neuromotor dysfunction observed in the control group, plus they demonstrated improved learning and memory skills in the mazes.
Very importantly, their dopamine levels were elevated. Dopamine is an essential neurotransmitter that enables effortless muscle movement as well as efficient memory, attention, and problem solving.
In addition to all of this, the antioxidant capacity of the blueberry reduces inflammation. Altogether, this amazing little fruit actually slows the brain’s normal aging process.
Perhaps it’s an ounce of blueberries that are worth a pound of cure! Don’t fresh blueberries sound good right now?
Brain Memory Supplement Support Footnotes
4 This combination also helps lower homocysteine, high levels of which are a heart disease risk factor.
5 Use a complete vitamin E, containing mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols.
6 My personal experience with this supplement is extremely positive. I have experienced results within hours.
7 Adaptogens are a group of substances (mainly herbs) that are able to increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress. The most famous of these is Panax ginseng.
What About The A-Word?
Not Alzhieimer’s but A-G-I-N-G. However, today it is clear that growing older doesn’t mean what it once did.
Saul Kent, executive director of the Life Extension Foundation, writes about biological events called “co-factors of aging”. Although some of these, such as genetics, are beyond our control (as yet), there are eight over which we can exert some control. In no particular order:
1. Chronic inflammation is very dangerous. Indicated by elevated levels of pro-inflammatory proteins in the blood, chronic inflammation results in an increased risk of osteoporosis, loss of lean muscle mass after middle age, anemia in the elderly, and cognitive decline after 70.
Common disorders such as atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s are caused in part by chronic inflammatory syndrome.
Also involved are heart valve dysfunction and congestive heart failure, obesity, diabetes, digestive system disorders, and others.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, particularly EPA, the spice turmeric (95% curcumins), and the hormone DHEA are very effective fire extinguishers. Digestants and probiotics are also important.
2. Oxidative stress occurs when the body has to defend against more free radicals than it can neutralize with its self-produced antioxidants.
Free radicals, unstable molecules that destabilize healthy molecules, have been associated with most diseases of aging.
We list a number of antioxidants in the supplement section of this newsletter. A new and very powerful antioxidant is natural astaxanthin. The best is extracted from marine microalgae harvested in Hawaii. Take one 4 mg capsule per day.
3. Fatty acid imbalance is a condition which occurs over time as alterations in enzyme pathways prevent the conversion of EFAs into the specific nutrients needed by the body.
Combined with insufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and an overabundance of saturated fats and/or trans fats, this can result in irregular heartbeat, joint degeneration, dry skin, “sticky” blood, and other health problems.
The best counter is to increase your omega-3 intake and use digestive enzymes.
4. Glycosylation is a condition caused by an imbalance of insulin and blood sugar (glucose). The glucose molecules bind with protein molecules to form non-functioning structures referred to as AGEs (advanced glycosylation end products).
This condition is most evident in diabetes, degenerative eye conditions, stiffening of the arteries, and senile dementia.
According to nutrition authority Gary Null, PhD, the binding process can be inhibited by the amino acid carnosine (no relation to carnitine). Take 500 mg 2-3x/d.
5. Hormone imbalance is a well known consequence of aging. The resulting lack of hormones contributes to the genesis of many diseases associated with aging.
Among these are depression, osteoporosis, and coronary artery disease. Loss of libido, weight gain, and loss of muscle and skin tone are frequently traced to this source.
The most direct way to counter this co-factor is with hormone replacement therapy, using bio-identical hormones.
If this does not appeal, DHEA, available in natural products stores, is a basic that may be helpful. Dosage is very individual.
6. DNA mutations happen because aging cells lose their ability to repair our genes.
This can cause cells to proliferate out of control, sometimes forming cancer cells. It was once thought that nothing could be done to restore normalcy to these damaged genes.
However, some natural substances demonstrate a capacity for gene repair. Life Extension reports that people with the highest intake of the caroteniods lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin are protected against developing many different kinds of cancers, inferring greater DNA repair.
7. Immune dysfunction is the result not only of age but of over stressing the immune system.
In aging humans, excessive levels of dangerous substances are produced by the body, causing the immune system to turn on itself.
The results include autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. The four step program described in this newsletter can help to maintain a healthy immune system.
8. Impairment of microcapillary circulation. This system of tiny blood vessels nourishes and cleanses the cells, particularly those of the brain, eyes, and skin.
The most obvious result of this degeneration is disorders of the eye, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Strokes are also associated with circulatory deficits to the brain.
Bilberries, blueberries, vitamin E, and grape seed extract all support the health of microcapillary circulation.
Growing old is natural; aging is optional.
Each month, Nutrition News features three additional titles to support our main topic.
This month’s selections are
“On Fire!”, “Relax”, and “The Fats Of Life”.