Cognitive Health Supplements and What Experts Advise
When it comes to cognitive health supplements, you might not be getting the full truth. Read on to learn about some healthy ways you can improve your cognitive health, and demystify some of the hype along the way.
Disclaimer: Always speak with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet, especially if you take other supplements or prescription medications.
According to a 2017 consumer survey from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), over 170 million Americans or 76% of the population take dietary supplements, with 75% of respondents claiming vitamins and minerals as the most commonly consumed category of supplements. And the numbers are going up — up 12% since 2008 (64% of respondents took supplements in 2008).
With the amount of dietary supplement takers on the rise, there’s a large portion of the population who take supplements to improve their brain health. A study from the AARP says that over 25% of Americans age 50 and older regularly take supplements for cognitive health purposes.
For some, warding off cognitive decline, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s is the main goal. Others, have an interest in improving memory, focus and concentration to optimize brain functioning and promote prime thinking and problem solving.
With the many factors that contribute to brain health — like genetics, aging and factors particular to one’s lifestyle — efforts to improve the inevitable prove futile. There’s only so much we can do to improve cognitive health. There are benefits and constraints that vary from individual to individual.
Medical professionals often recommend a steady regimen of exercise and maintaining a healthy diet to support the brain as it ages, in addition, there are supplements that you can take to preserve your cognitive health as you mature.
Medical experts agree that the best way to promote a healthy lifestyle in the long term is to give your brain (and body) the best opportunity for health as you grow and age. Taking a multivitamin rich with beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamins C, B12, and E is a great way to supplement your diet.
Below, we’ll discuss common supplements people take to improve cognitive functioning and what the experts say.
ALC is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the brain and liver. It’s used widely to treat cognitive impairments related to dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders, but findings are inconsistent. According to an article in Psychology Today, “In a two-month placebo-controlled trial, depressed patients with dementia randomized to 3g per day of ALC experienced significantly greater improvements in mood and global cognitive functioning than the placebo group. Findings of many placebo-controlled studies show that doses of ALC between 1,500 and 3,000 mg per day improve overall performance on tests of reaction time, memory, and cognitive performance in patients diagnosed with dementia and may slow the rate of progression of cognitive impairment.”
This natural medicine has been around for thousands of years for a variety of uses. Often cited for its ability to improve mental performance, ginkgo biloba is not medically proven to treat dementia patients and has conflicting results on reducing the rate of cognitive decline in them. Gingko does contain powerful antioxidants. It can help fight inflammation, increase circulation, and some research indicates that it has positive effects on reducing anxiety. Although evidence of harm is limited, ginkgo biloba is a blood thinner and you should consult a doctor before taking it.
Ginseng is surely one of the most popular natural food supplements that has been used to enhance cognition and boost energy. More research is necessary to validate the legitimacy of these claims. Like gingko, ginseng is a blood thinner and can cause adverse effects so you should consult a doctor before taking it
In its many forms, vitamin B plays a key role in overall health, including the importance of a varied diet. Many B vitamins are recognized for the role they play in the overall health and functioning of the brain, nervous system and immune system. Vitamin B has been studied for its effects on cognition, but there is no supporting medical evidence that it prevents or treats cognitive decline or dementia.
Among the many supplements people take to improve brain functioning, vitamin E has good evidence that it treats cognitive decline and dementia, but at high doses so potential harms must be considered. Vitamin E has great health benefits at normal doses, and as an antioxidant helps prevent tissue damage.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Like other supplement ingredients, omega 3 fatty acids are known for the important role they play in overall heart and brain health. At the same time, in opposition to some common claims, there is no medical evidence that suggests taking them in supplement form has an effect on or increases memory.
What are some of the best ways to improve cognitive health?
Although there have been a few small clinical trials that support health benefit claims of some of the above-mentioned ingredients, larger, more qualified studies have failed to find clinically proven benefits of cognitive health in those same ingredients, aside from the good evidence found in high doses of vitamin E to treat cognitive decline and dementia.
The ticket to giving yourself the best shot of maintaining cognitive health is consistent, long term care. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting adequate exercise are two great ways you can protect your cognitive health as you age.
Additionally, taking a multivitamin rich with beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamins C, B12, and E is a great way to supplement your diet — these are ingredients your brain needs to maintain its health. But make sure you always speak with your doctor to determine if adding supplements to your diet is right for you.
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