Say YES to NOOTROPICS to Boost Brain Function
Nootropics are a classification of dietary supplements designed to improve cognition and memory while facilitating learning. The word was created by Romanian physician Corneliu E. Giurgea by combining the Latin words nous (mind) and trepein (to bend). Completely safe and free of adverse effects, nootropics can increase circulation to the brain, boost neuronal growth, improve memory and focus, prevent cognitive impairment, and may even help us to be more creative.
Some of the extensively-researched nootropic compounds include magnesium L-threonate, Pycnogenol, PQQ, acetyl L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, lion’s mane, Alpha GPC, lutein, zeaxanthin, vinpocetine, and Bacopa monnieri. Other proven, powerful, cognitive ingredients include omega-3, ginkgo biloba, taurine, phosphatidylserine, creatine, L-theanine, and blueberries, which are high in the flavonoid polyphenol anthocyanin. Flavanols are from the flavonoid classification of polyphenols and occur naturally in plants; shown to improve cognitive function, they are found in cocoa, green tea, the skins of berries, coffee, red wine, apples, and grapes.
Nootropic supplements can help generate new mitochondria, boost neuronal growth, support nerve growth factor, and may help prevent or reverse the progression of Alzheimer's disease by stabilizing amyloid beta 40 protein levels and reducing phospholipid hydroperoxides.
Research indicates nootropics can help control blood sugar (high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes are associated with dementia and the development of Alzheimer's disease), and inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) to help maintain optimum levels of the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
The tiny energy furnaces in our cells, mitochondria are among the most important keys to our health, energy levels, and brain function. Research has proven that you can increase mitochondria by up to 50% with only six weeks of exercise, and one of the methods of intermittent fasting that results in calorie restriction, which turns on the healthy cell maintenance process of “autophagy”.
These intermittent fasting methods include time-restricted eating, the twice-a-week method (I use a variation of this), alternate-day fasting, and the 24-hour fast (or Eat Stop Eat method). I recommend the books ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’ by Jason Fung, ‘Fast Diet’ by Dr. Michael Mosley, and works by Dr. Pradip Jamnadas to learn more about these important fasting methods that result in a wide range of overall health benefits, including improving neurological performance.
You can also increase mitochondria with natural supplements. Dr. Bruce Ames of the University of California developed a formula that was successful in transforming sedentary old rats that were the equivalent of between 70 and 100 years old into youthful, energetic rats that he said could dance the Macarena, with a nutritional supplement that included acetyl L-carnitine (ALCAR) and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA).
Many prominent medical professionals and researchers who have read Ames' research choose dietary supplements that include ALCAR and ALA. AOR Ortho Mind is an excellent nootropic formula that also includes Bacopa monnieri, citicoline, and Panax ginseng.
Supporting Neuronal Growth
Pyrroloquinoline Quinone: PQQ is an exciting antioxidant that has been studied for diabetes, cognition, neuroprotection, and lowering C-reactive protein levels (a marker of inflammation). PQQ can activate genes that boost mitochondrial function while protecting the brain from age-related degeneration.
Studies show that PQQ may reverse cognitive decline and improve memory by stimulating the production of nerve growth factor in cells that stimulate brain neurons. A powerful antioxidant, not only does PQQ protect against mitochondrial decay and the damage caused by oxidation, but it also helps generate new mitochondria. PQQ may be the most important nutrient ever discovered for improving mitochondrial function, boosting memory, and protecting brain cells from damage caused by toxins.
Lion's Mane: A medicinal mushroom, lion's mane increases nerve growth factor and is an excellent complement to PQQ and other nootropic supplements.
A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of thirty 50 to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment showed improved scores on the cognitive function scale, as compared to the placebo group. The scores continued to increase during the 16-week trial, but scores decreased significantly four weeks after the trial concluded, indicating that the supplement would need to be taken regularly to continue the benefits. There were no adverse effects.
Magnesium L-Threonate: Developed by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and the result of nearly 20 years of research at Stanford University, MIT, and Tsinghua University, magnesium L-threonate (or MgT) is the only form of magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier, and that supplies magnesium to neurons.
Research has found that in only twelve weeks, this amazing supplement can reverse more than nine years of clinical brain aging by increasing the density of synapses (the communication connections between brain cells). In addition, MgT may help improve mood and sleep.
Pycnogenol: Derived from French maritime pine bark, Pycnogenol is one of the most powerful natural health supplements, with proven benefits for allergies, tinnitus, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, ADHD, erectile dysfunction, retinopathy, and skin health. Italian and Australian studies have confirmed improvements in attention, cognitive function, memory, and mood within eight weeks by taking 150 mg daily.
Bacopa Monnieri: Also known as Brahmi, bacopa has been used for centuries in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. Recent studies confirm its nootropic effects, as it has been shown to improve brain function, cognition, and memory. Bacopa is also considered an adaptogen as it helps balance the body's response to acute and chronic stress.
Alpha GPC: L-Alpha Glycerylphosphorylcholine is the most bioavailable form of choline, as unlike other forms, Alpha GPC crosses the blood-brain barrier. As the precursor to acetylcholine (an essential neurotransmitter) and phosphatidylcholine (a component of all cell membranes), Alpha GPC can help improve mood, increase mental clarity and alertness, improve short and long-term memory, while providing the nutrients required for the brain to build new cells.
It has also been shown to increase growth hormone levels. Research confirms that Alpha GPC can facilitate memory and learning, and may halt or reverse cognitive disorders including Alzheimer's disease, especially in the early stages.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Known as critical nutrients for the prevention and treatment of eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, a recent randomized double-blind trial found significantly improved cognitive function in younger adults.
Vinpocetine: Derived from the periwinkle plant, studies have shown it boosts brain function by increasing circulation and blood flow to the brain. Vinpocetine improves memory, slows cognitive decline, and may be helpful in stroke recovery and epilepsy. Dr. Jonathan Wright recommends vinpocetine for tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Zembrin: The South African plant Sceletium tortuosum has been used traditionally to treat anxiety, and depression, improve mood, and induce a tranquil, meditative state. In addition, it’s been found to help people think more clearly and improve focus. Also called kanna (and sold as Zembrin), other benefits to Sceletium tortuosum include increasing energy, while at higher doses it can act as a sedative.
Of the many nootropic compounds, I've elected to detail just a few of the most studied nootropics that have been shown to be effective. Nootropic supplements, along with regular exercise, intermittent fasting, and a diet that includes all essential nutrients, can provide protection against developing cognitive impairment, and improve brain health.
Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2016-2022. First version published in February 2016, last revised in June 2022. Nathan Zassman is a trained nutrition practitioner and the owner of Aviva Natural Health Solutions.
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There are a number of mechanisms influenced by the administration of nootropics, such as glutaminergic signalling and amyloid precursor protein, also responsible for neuro-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
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