We all want to cut corners: that’s the meaning of being efficient and productive (just cast in a negative light).
What does microsoft excel do?
What does a lawnmower or a blender do?
Save time, increase productivity, so you’re more free to do something else.
Athletes typically peak in their 20’s (not always of course, as we are reminded!).
Equally, your ability to learn, remember, and solve problems deteriorates with age. You may find it harder to recall once familiar facts or even multi-task.
These changes may impact your capacity to focus, but some of these ‘slow-down’ effects are reversible – and can even be connected to poor sleep.
How can you recover your edge? How can you ‘cut corners’ and improve your mental agility, while helping to protect your brain from future disease?
Do ‘Brain-Booster’ Nutraceuticals Work?
Good nutrition and sound sleep are the bedrock for a healthy life, but some supplements also purport to boost brain power and memory, sharpen your focus, and even put off neurodegenerative diseases.
Most commonly, people will notice that they are more focused and alert, that they are more motivated, that they are processing information faster (although some people report no effect at all).
The principal challenge in determining whether this is true.
There simply hasn’t been much research on whether an intelligent, healthy young person can function better intellectually under the influence of reputed brain boosters.
A bit like the early days of acupuncture, when few westerm medical professionals took that practice seriously and research studies were lacking.
Except in this case, some of the individual components are at least better understood.
So let’s look at the component ingredients reputted by some to improve your brain’s performance – cognition, memory, focus.
Are any of these on their own backed by science?
We became interested when we saw the startling rise of adaptogens – You know, for example, that weird mushroom coffee that’s supposed to calm you down and relieve your stress. Adaptogens ”are a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.” The magic of mushrooms? Perhaps.
What Are ‘Brain Boosters’ Made From?
Component ingredients may typically include:
Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement on the planet. Seriously.
Curcumin, for example (the active ingredient), goes far beyond the brain to include anti-inflammatory properties, for example, that are considered on par with prescription drugs in their effectiveness, as it fights inflammation at the molecular level.
But studies show that it has major benefits for both your body and your brain.
Consider just this: the U.S. has the second highest rate of dementia in the world, India one of the lowest. Extremely low rates are also found in Cambodia and Singapore; very high in Finland and Switzerland.
Sure, the diets are disparate across the board, but could curcumin (the active ingredient in Turmeric) be one of the factors?
Certainly, in India it has long been regarded as a medicinal herb.
Science seems to agree; it really does contain compounds with medicinal properties.
Curcumin Boosts BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor)
Curcumin is tied to both improved brain function and a lower risk of brain diseases.
Neurons are capable of forming new connections, but in certain areas of the brain they can also multiply and increase in number.
One of the main drivers of this process is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a type of growth hormone that functions in your brain.
Many common brain disorders have been linked to decreased levels of this hormone, including Alzheimer’s disease.
But curcumin can increase brain levels of BDNF.
By doing this, it may be effective in delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function.
It may also improve memory and make you smarter, which seems logical given its effects on BDNF levels.
Similarly, A UCLA study found that people who took curcumin fared better on memory tests and had less buildup of abnormal proteins in their brains.
- Whole Coffee Fruit Extract
Coffee fruit is a red fruit that wraps around coffee beans to protect them as they grow. In the last few years, researchers have discovered that coffee fruit extract carries its own special set of benefits.
It’s packed with antioxidants and brain-enhancing compounds.
Studies indicate that this nootropic (brain-enhancing compound) helps you learn faster, prevents brain aging, and reduces anxiety.
For example, one study in 71 older adults with mild mental decline found that consuming coffee fruit extract for 28 days ”significantly” reduced reaction time.
Another study showed that taking 100 mg of coffee fruit concentrate increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — that protein essential for the survival and growth of neuronal cells in the brain — by 143% within just 2 hours.
- Active B Energy Complex
In 2016, a review concluded that “administration of the entire B-vitamin group, rather than a small sub-set, at doses greatly in excess of the current governmental recommendations, would be a rational approach for preserving brain health.”
Eating properly should, according to other studies we have seen, take care of your Vitamin B needs. However a) not everyone enjoy a balanced diet and b) medical experts clearly disagree at least to some extent, because I was once advised by my own primary case physician to take active B-complex supplements – despite no underlying conditions that would otherwise warrant this.
- Grape seed extract
Grape seed extract may help with a type of poor circulation and high cholesterol; but the reason why modern science continues to explore the benefits of grape seeds is as a nutraceutical with enormous potential for modern medicine.
One 12 week study in 111 healthy older adults found that taking 150 mg of GSE daily improved attention, language, and both immediate and delayed memory.
GSE’s combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties properties are thought to delay or reduce the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease
Citicoline is a brain chemical that occurs naturally in the body, but It’s found in very few foods, particularly ones not often found in the typical Western diet, mainly liver and brain. In Japan and Europe, Citicoline was originally used as a prescription drug to help improve memory, thinking, and brain function in people who are healing from a stroke.
Citicoline is a nutrient commonly sold as a brain supplement to improve overall mental performance. Citicoline can boost the levels of important neurotransmitters, increase energy available to the brain, and protect it from foreign substances.
But if you want the therapeutic brain benefits of citicoline, you can’t count on getting more from food beyond what your body normally manufactures, so you do need a supplement.
Here it is – the magic mushroom coffee stuff! Actually, it’s just an evergreen shrub with remarkable medicinal potential – for anyiety, depression, fertility and, yes, brain function. But, as is so often the case, although ashwagandha has traditionally been used to boost memory in Ayurvedic medicine, only a limited amount of human research has been conducted in this area.
In one controlled study, healthy men who took 500 mg of standardized extract daily reported significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance, compared with men who received a placebo.
In a smaller study, the root extract significantly improved general memory, task performance, and attention.
That gives you a round-up of the current state of scientific research.
As you can see, these substances in islolation provide strong evidence of their neuroprotective and mind enhancing properties. While there are no studies showing the effects of the various combinations, typically constituting a nutraceutical supplement, anecdotal evidence of consumers is compelling.
One thing is sure, however, no combination of natural ingredients will yield instant eureka moments: however, they may well provide short and long term benefits for memory, focus and warding off dementia.
For an example of a product we are familiar with and ‘fits the bill’, see here.