The brain is particularly susceptible to free radical damage, and its nutrient requirements tend to increase as we age. The following studies explored the potential benefits of vitamins A, C, and D, the omega-3 DHA, and GABA on brain health.
Nutrients support memory and healthy brain function
Green tea, memory, and triglycerides
Doctors were interested in the cognitive effects of green tea on elderly nursing home residents, and in this study gave two men and 10 women, average age 88, 2 grams of green tea powder per day for three months. The powder contained 227 mg of green tea catechins and 42 mg of theanine, or about the same amount as in two to four cups of bottled or home-brewed green tea.
After three months, scores on a mental exam had improved by more than 50 percent, rising from 12.3 at the start of the study to 17.8 by the end. In particular, for both men and women, short term memory improved, and triglycerides declined significantly.
Reference: Nutrition Journal; 2015, Vol. 31, No. 2, 261-75
Vitamins, DHA, and brain aging
The brain burns a high proportion of the body’s nutrients and needs a constant supply to keep neural pathways healthy; a key in slowing or preventing cognitive problems. A recent study in Neurology found a link between low levels of vitamin D and increasing chances of dementia.
Vitamins such as A and C, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA all play a vital role in neuronal health, yet older adults tend to get less of these micronutrients as they age. Doctors in this study said malnourishment is linked to the process of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most prevalent dementia worldwide, and that the best way to delay the onset of AD is to maintain neuronal health by ensuring an adequate supply of these important micronutrients.
Reference: Nutrients; 2014, Vol. 29, No. 6(10), 4032-42
Nutrient improved mental and physical control
Natural brain chemical is key
When you are driving a car and need to stop suddenly, milliseconds can make a difference. In this study, doctors tested GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) on the theory that this naturally-occurring brain chemical would speed decision making.
GABA plays a role in decision making by reducing reaction times and helping the brain learn and control repeated muscle movements. In this study, 29 healthy young women and one healthy young man took a placebo or 800 mg of GABA powder mixed in orange juice.
After 30 minutes, doctors gave participants a task that required stopping a certain action while almost simultaneously starting a new and different action, testing the ability to plan and control. Compared to placebo, the GABA group took 25.4 percent less time to stop an action and 22.8 percent less time to change to a new action, suggesting GABA may improve the ability to prioritize planned actions, as when driving a car.
Reference: Scientific Reports; July, 2015, Published Online
Betsy’s Note: This article is for education purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before starting any supplement, especially if you take medication or have a medical condition. For example, green tea, vitamins A and C and DHA also thin blood. Green tea may affect blood pressure. Consult your healthcare provider.
Article copyright 2015 by Natural Insights for Well Being. All rights reserved. Used with permission.