While we can use food to nurture and protect our bodies and our brains, supplements play an important role in preventing inflammation and helping us achieve total health” says David Perlmutter M.D.
Numerous studies confirm the benefit of micronutrients and the role they play in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Given that the brain uses twenty five percent of the total energy available, compared to other organ systems in the body, it is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress and therefore requires higher levels of antioxidant defense.
Let us therefore focus on those micronutrients known to be beneficial for brain health.
Belonging to the ginger family, turmeric’s ability to cross the blood brain barrier and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may offer protection against cognitive dysfunction and neural synaptic damage.
Using blood samples from Alzheimer’s patients, UCLA’s Drs. Milan Fiala and John Cashman (recipient of the 2008 Alzheimer Award) have shown that turmeric protects the neurons through numerous pathways including inhibiting amyloid beta deposit and by supporting the brains lymphatic system in clearing away amyloid beta fragments, the main cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric powder can be added to many different foods including smoothies.
As a supplement: 400 to 600 milligrams of turmeric containing 95 percent curcumin taken twice daily will work as effectively.
Turmeric in food is considered safe. Turmeric and curcumin supplements when taken at the recommended doses are also considered safe. Large amounts of Turmeric and curcumin, taken for long periods of time, may cause stomach upset and in extreme cases, ulcers.
Coconut Oil is predominantly composed of 94 percent of saturated fatty acids and about 62 percent of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCT). MCTs are medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management. Therapeutic levels of MCTs have been studied at 15 grams per day. According to research by Dr. Mary Newport, just 4 level teaspoons of coconut oil would supply the equivalent of 15 grams of MCT, which is excellent as a preventative measure against Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorders.
Four level teaspoons would supply the equivalent of 15 gram of MCT a preventative measure against Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological disorders.
Everyone tolerates coconut oil differently, so you may have to start slowly and build up to these therapeutic levels. Start with one teaspoon, taken with food in the mornings. Gradually add more coconut oil every few days until you are able to tolerate four tablespoons. Coconut oil is best taken with food, to avoid upsetting your stomach.
Fish Oil DHA and EPA
The two types of omega-3 fatty acids to focus on are EPA and DHA. These omega-3s are naturally found in oily fish like salmon, halibut, mackerel, trout, herring and sardines and are the very reason why fish oil supplements have received such high praise. DHA supplements are also available from krill oil and algae.
A regular intake of EPA and DHA plays a very positive role in memory and behavioral functions and in keeping cell membranes flexible.
Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides reduce arterial plaque; enhance the availability of BDNF, a protein which helps the brain create new connections and in lowering the buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain.
Clinical studies have shown fish oil to be safe, but it is recommended that you get no more than 2 grams (2,000 mg) of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) from fish oil supplements per day.
Supplements with EPA may not be recommended for infants or small children because they upset the balance between DHA and EPA during early development.
For adults taking blood-thinning medication, fish oil should be taken under the supervision of their health care provider as it may increase the risk of bleeding. Fish oil may also lower blood pressure.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant made by the body and is found in every cell. It helps to metabolize glucose into energy. It is both fat and water-soluble aiding its beneficial properties to work throughout the body. Evidence suggests alpha-lipoic acid is one of the most compatible antioxidants and has been shown to restore intercellular glutathione levels and regenerate other antioxidants by making them active again.
Alpha-lipoic acid can easily pass the blood brain barrier, making it as a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the brain and nerve tissues.
Many foods contain alpha-lipoic acid in very low amounts. They include spinach, broccoli, yams, potatoes, yeast, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beets, and rice bran. Red meat and organ meat is also a source of alpha-lipoic acid.
For healthy adults the recommended supplement dosage is 50 to 100 milligrams once a day.
Side effects are generally rare. However, Alpha-lipoic acid can lower blood sugar levels, so people with low blood sugar should take alpha-lipoic acid supplement under the supervision of their health care provider. Taking alpha-lipoic acid might also interfere with treatments for under-active or over-active thyroid.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 also known as Ubiquinone is a fat-soluble, vitamin-like substance found in every cell of the body, primarily in the mitochondria “the powerhouse of the cell”. Your body makes CoQ10, and your cells use it to produce energy (ATP) that your body needs for cell signaling, cells maintenance and cells growth. Coenzyme Q10 also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules. Mitochondria dysfunction has been implicated in several human diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiac dysfunction, and heart failure.
Coenzyme Q10 is naturally present in small amounts in a wide variety of foods, but levels are particularly high in organ meats such as heart, liver, and kidney, as well as beef, soy oil, sardines, mackerel, and peanuts.
For healthy adults the recommended dose for CoQ10 supplementation is 100 – 200 mg daily. CoQ10 is fat-soluble, so it should be taken with a meal containing fat.
Coenzyme Q10 appears to be generally safe for most people with no major side effects. However, it may lower blood pressure, so check your blood pressure carefully if you have very low blood pressure. Dividing the total daily dose by taking smaller amounts two times a day instead of a large amount all at once can help reduce side effects.
The B Vitamins
The B vitamin family is made up of eight B vitamins. They are a class of water-soluble vitamins that play an important role in many brain related functions and in reducing elevated homocysteine levels in the blood.
With the exception for B-12, all B Vitamins are found in fortified foods including whole grain breads and cereals. Other sources include liver, eggs, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, beets, melons, dates and avocados.
Vitamin B3 or Niacin supports over 200 chemical reactions in the body including cellular energy production and fatty acid synthesis. Studies suggest taking niacin has a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Vitamin B6 helps with normal brain development and makes neurotransmitters, a chemical that carries signals from one nerve cell to another. The B6 vitamin also makes the hormone serotonin and norepinephrine, which affect mood. Vitamin B6 also helps the body make melatonin, a hormone important for regulating the body’s internal clock.
Vitamin B9 also called folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental and emotional health. It is especially important when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in infancy, adolescence, and pregnancy.
Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin for many brain related functions. It helps in maintaining healthy myelination, the fatty substance that forms a protective sheath around nerve cells and in the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps with memory and learning. It also aids in slowing the cognitive decline that comes with age. Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in foods of animal origin such as chicken, beef, fish, milk and eggs. Vegans should take B-complex daily to fulfill vitamin B12 dietary needs.
Since all the B vitamins work together, the best way to ensure the recommended daily allowance is to take B-Complex which contains the recommended daily value of all B vitamins.
The B Vitamins are considered safe and non-toxic and should be taken together as a B-Complex. Most people do not experience any side effects when used in recommended doses daily.
However, there are some studies which show that a high-dose B complex supplement (with 1,000 mcg of B-12) hurt, rather than helped, people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and advanced kidney disease, resulting in a worsening of kidney function and an increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in many important body functions. It is best known for working with calcium to help build and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is also involved in regulating the immune system, where it may help prevent cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin D3 is produced when sunlight converts cholesterol on the skin into calciol (vitamin D3). Statins and other medications that inhibit cholesterol synthesis may impair the production of vitamin D.
People who are exposed to 20 minutes of sunshine a daily may not need Vitamin D3 supplements. However, for those living in colder regions with limited sunlight should take 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.
The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of ng/mL 20 to 50 is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D3 is safe when taken in recommended amounts.
Ashwagandha is a plant used in India to treat a wide range of age-related disorders. A 2012 study using an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease found that Ashwagandha reversed accumulation of amyloid peptides. Laboratory studies have shown that Ashwagandha can regenerate neurites and reconstruct synapses in severely damaged neurons. It has powerful antioxidant properties that seek and destroy the free radicals that have been implicated in aging and numerous degenerative diseases.
Recommended dosage for Ashwagandha is 250 mg per day
Ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes or low blood sugar should take Aashwagandha only under the supervision of their health care provider. Ashwagandha is also known to lower blood pressure.
Endogenous melatonin not only helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, but is a strong antioxidant. Melatonin is a hormone released from the pineal gland in the brain.
Researchers believe melatonin levels drop as we age. Lower levels of melatonin may explain why some older adults have sleep disorders. Sleeping less than 7 hours at night can have serious implications for the brain.
Supplementing with melatonin adds to the quality of sleep in about 60 percent of people who use it.
It also plays an important role in maintaining a hormonal balance and in protecting the brain against oxidative stress.
Take 0.1 to 0.3 mg of melatonin one hour before bedtime is usually effective.
If you are on blood pressure or blood thinning medicine, talk to your doctor first.