Do you take supplements for brain health?

Taking steps to keep the brain healthy as we age is undoubtedly something sensible, and according to research, doing things such as eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease significantly. Regarding the consumption of supplements to "improve memory", the sales of which increased by 74% between 2006 and 2016, the results are a little more varied.


"There are many supplements that don't work," warns Dr. Majid Fotuhi, medical director of the NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center in McLean, Virginia. One of these supplements is one that you undoubtedly know: Gingko Biloba. According to a study published in the medical journal  The Lancet Neurology of almost 3,000 adults over 70 with memory-related illnesses, this herb did not decrease the rates of Alzheimer's disease development, compared to those who took a placebo. Similarly, popular DHEA supplements recently also failed the tests of various investigations.

Here are three supplements that you might consider taking specifically for brain health, as well as fish oil, which we include with a few warnings.

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Vitamin B complex
Certain B vitamins may help decrease memory decline when they are taken for at least 18 months, says doctor Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, one of the country's leading dietary supplement evaluators. According to a two-year study of people over 70 with mild cognitive disability, for example, those who took a combination of B vitamins — 800 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, 500 mcg of vitamin B12, and 20 milligrams (mg ) of vitamin B6 - experienced less cognitive deterioration than those who took a placebo. These vitamins, especially B12, are important for brain health because they help isolate and develop brain neurons, says Fotuhi. But nevertheless "

If you are over 50, it is a good idea to check your vitamin B12 levels, advises Cooperman. If they are low, check with your doctor; Maybe you should take a daily supplement of 100 to 500 mcg of vitamin B12, along with possibly 400 mcg of folic acid, temporarily. It is also important to ensure that you take 1.7 mg of vitamin B6 every day, the recommended daily amount. You can easily get this particular vitamin through your diet: supplements are not recommended since at high doses they have been linked to strokes and reduced liver function. A list of foods rich in this vitamin can be found here.


Curcumin
This compound is found in the spice turmeric and is what gives it that orange color. It also has a wide variety of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some research has found that it could benefit not only memory but the ability to reason. "We think it is one of the reasons why older adults in India, who consume curcumin practically every day, have a lower rate of Alzheimer's disease," says physician Gary Small, director of geriatric psychology at UCLA Longevity Center. According to a study carried out by Small and published last January in the  American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in which 40 adults aged 50 to 90 years with mild memory impairments participated, those who received 90 mg of curcumin twice daily for 18 months experienced significant improvements in their memory and reasoning abilities compared to those who only received a placebo They also had less accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins in their brains, two substances that are known as biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease.

One teaspoon of the spice turmeric contains about 150 mg of curcumin, so you can add a pinch to your food every day to reap its fruits. (If you choose to use the spice, use it in foods that include fats or oils, which increases its absorption, says Cooperman). If you take a supplement, be careful, since many trademarks do not contain the amounts they declare on their labels. The four supplements that have recently met ConsumerLab test requirements are Doctor's Best High Absorption Curcumin, NOW Curcumin, NutriGold Turmeric Curcumin Gold and Swanson Ultra Turmeric Phytosome.

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Cocoa flavins
These compounds, found in chocolate, have also been linked to improvements in memory and intellectual abilities. Flavins are especially abundant in the cocoa bean, which is found in unsweetened cocoa powder. According to a 2015 Italian study published in the  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, healthy people aged 61 to 85 who consumed one drink a day with 520 to 993 mg of flavin showed significant improvements in memory tests after eight weeks, compared to those who consumed drinks with only about 50 mg. Another 2012 study published in the medical journal  Hypertension He found that drinking cocoa flavins every day improved the intellectual abilities of those adults who already had mild cognitive disabilities.

You need to be careful with cocoa powder since a large amount is contaminated with cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, Cooperman warns. Better, consider using an extract such as CocoaVia. If you want to enjoy a drink made with traditional cocoa powder, limit yourself to one cup a day. According to ConsumerLab tests, Hershey's brand cocoa powder (100% sugar-free natural cocoa) contains the highest levels of flavins with the least contamination of cadmium or other heavy metals.

Fish oil
If you are healthy, without memory problems, there is little evidence that you will benefit from taking this popular supplement. Research shows positive effects on people who already suffer from dementia in the initial stage. A study published in the  British  Journal of Nutrition  followed people over 65 with mild cognitive impairment for six months and found that those who took fish oil improved their scores on verbal fluency tests, a type of test related to memory where you should produce as many words as possible within a certain category in a short time. But an analysis carried out by the  Cochrane Library In 2012, 3,500 cognitively healthy elderly people concluded that the consumption of fish oil for up to 40 months did not bring them any benefit. It is very likely that if you consume fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel or salmon at least twice a week you will get enough fish oil, and a supplement will not change things, Cooperman explains.
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