Along with concern over the ability to continue living independently, many seniors are apprehensive about maintaining mental acuity. Most individuals are aware that some degree of forgetfulness and cognitive decline is considered normal with aging. However, cognitive decline greater than what is expected for one’s age and educational level is indeed cause for apprehension, because with age we become increasingly susceptible to chronic and debilitating brain diseases. Although the normal process of brain atrophy occurs even in cognitively healthy persons, the atrophy occurs more rapidly in persons who have cognitive decline that progresses to Alzheimer’s disease.
Growing research has demonstrated the beneficial impact of nutrition as a preventive strategy for reduced risk of cognitive decline and for maintenance of executive function. Executive function is defined as a set of mental skills that enables one to get things done, manage time, pay attention, switch focus, plan, organize, and multitask. Recognizing and reducing the factors that contribute to brain atrophy may be one strategy to slow the process of neurodegeneration. In older adults, research has underscored the potential impact of nutritional factors and individual micronutrients on the brain and cognitive function. Subclinical deficiencies commonly seen in the general population, and seniors in particular, include the B vitamins, folate, B12 and B6.
Science shows that elevated blood levels of homocysteine is one factor that contributes to brain atrophy, as well as to atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Homocysteine is a chemical byproduct of normal protein metabolism found to some degree in everyone’s bloodstream. When homocysteine levels are abnormally high, there’s an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hardening of the arteries, isolated systolic hypertension, blood clots, and dementia, factors which may ultimately lead to heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. High homocysteine levels may be attributed to genetics, certain medications, kidney disease, and thyroid hormone insufficiency, as well as B vitamin and folate deficiencies.
While it remains unclear whether high homocysteine levels are the cause or the effect of disease, elevated levels are recognized as being associated with brain atrophy, dementia, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are all involved in the break down and conversion of homocysteine into methionine, a protein building block. Increasing intake of these vitamins may lower blood levels of homocysteine. Folate can be found green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, most beans and fortified foods. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products, seafood, fortified cereals and enriched soy or rice milks. Good sources of B6 include beans, poultry, dark leafy greens and some fruits. A daily multivitamin can help ensure adequate intake of these important vitamins.
There is growing support for the premise that optimal B vitamin status may prevent, slow or even reverse deterioration in memory and other mental capacities important to quality of life in older individuals. Folate, B6 and B12 may function to preserve and protect the integrity of the central nervous system through its role in the prevention of vascular disease. In addition to the B vitamins, vitamins C and D are key to optimal brain health and function. Vitamin C is essential to the production of neurotransmitters that affect the ability to focus, concentrate, and remember. They also control mood, sleep, cravings, addictions, and more.
As a cofactor necessary for serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine production, vitamin C is essential for a positive mood. A potent antioxidant, vitamin C helps to protect the brain from oxidative stress and free radical damage. A meta-analysis of studies found that a diet rich in vitamins C and E was linked to a 20-25% decrease in Alzheimer’s risk. Vitamin C acts as a powerful detoxifier that helps to remove heavy metal accumulation from the brain. By helping to build collagen that keeps arteries flexible, vitamin C improves blood flow, delivering increased oxygen and nutrients to properly nourish the brain. Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries and watermelon, tomatoes, bell peppers and cruciferous vegetables, especially when eaten raw.
Vitamin D micronutrient deficiency has reached epic proportions, affecting an estimated 77% of Americans. Pre-hormone vitamin D is necessary for normal brain development in utero, as well as throughout childhood. Vitamin D receptors are wide spread in brain tissue, and biologically active Vitamin D has been shown to be neuroprotective, aiding the clearance of amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s. Vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth. Studies suggest that vitamin D protects neurons and reduces damaging inflammation.
A study led by neuroscientist David Llewellyn of the University of Cambridge assessed the correlation between vitamin D levels and cognitive function in 1,700 men and women aged 65 and older. Those deficient in vitamin D exhibited slower information-processing speed, and were up to four times more likely to be cognitively impaired as compared with people with optimum vitamin D levels. Research shows it may be difficult to get sufficient vitamin D from dietary sources alone. Those who are not getting 15-30 minutes of sunshine on their torso a minimum of three times a week, would be well advised to supplement with vitamin D for brain health and overall wellness.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are vital for the maintenance of normal brain development and function throughout life. Low levels of omega-3’s may accelerate brain aging and contribute to deficits in brain function. Fish oil is found to be effective in reducing inflammation in the blood and tissues. Promising studies suggest that fish oil may help relieve mental fatigue and stress and may help women to reduce the risk of developing depression. Research suggests that those with mild cognitive impairment or mild declines in brain function may benefit the most from fish oil supplementation. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends omega-3 fatty acids as a possible defense against Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Professional Supplement Center carries many high quality products to support brain and overall health:
Pro Methyl Balance by Professional Supplement Center®: On SALE! Pro Methyl Balance is formulated to provide high levels of highly active and bioavailable forms of folate and vitamin B12 in support of homocysteine management, neurological function, and a healthy inflammatory response. Gluten free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Homocysteine Factors by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic formula provides the highly bioavailable folate Metafolin®, activated vitamin B6, anhydrous betaine, and vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin, in support of healthy homocysteine metabolism. Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
B Complex with Metafolin® by Douglas Laboratories®: This comprehensive B vitamin supplement provides highly bioavailable B vitamins plus intrinsic factor, a nutrient necessary for optimal B12 absorption. Gluten, soy, dairy, yeast and artificial ingredient free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Vitamin D3 5,000 IU by Professional Supplement Center®: On SALE! This product supplies highly bioavailable vitamin D3 in support of proper nervous system function, healthy cardiovascular function and a normal immune response. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
ProDHA™ 1000 mg by Nordic Naturals®: On SALE! This high potency formula provides an essential nutrient for brain health, healthy mood, cognitive function, and the structural integrity of the central nervous system. Third party tested for heavy metals and toxins. Gluten, dairy and artificial ingredient free, Non-GMO formulation.
Buffered Vitamin C by Integrative Therapeutics®: One serving supplies one gram of vitamin C buffered with magnesium and calcium in support of healthy skin, collagen production, and connective tissue and bone health. Gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, yeast, and artificial ingredient free, vegetarian formulation.
Vitamin E with Mixed Tocopherols by Pure Encapsulations®: This powerful antioxidant supplement plays a beneficial role in cellular respiration, mitochondrial function, blood vessel health and protein metabolism. Artificial ingredient free, Non-GMO formulation.
B vitamins, cognition and aging: a review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11682586
Bruno, Gene, MS, MHS, Rh. B Vitamins and Cognition, Vitamin Retailer, Dec. 2017.
Nutrition for the ageing brain: Towards evidence for an optimal diet. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163716301027
Three of the B Vitamins: Folate, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b/
Homocysteine and MTHFR Mutations. Relation to Thrombosis and Coronary Artery Disease. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/111/19/e289
Does Vitamin D Improve Brain Function? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/does-d-make-a-difference/
Vitamin D and cognitive function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22536767