Top 5 Brain Performance Supplements to Keep You Sharp(er)

You’ve misplaced your keys again and you are trying hard to remember the name of the person you were just introduced to. Common as we age? Sure. Problematic? Possibly. But can you do anything to keep your brain cells operating at full tilt? Nutritional science seems to suggest you can.

Here are 5 supplements that can sharpen your cognitive skills.

Ginkgo Biloba.
This herb improves blood flow to small vessels, and that includes the brain. Several studies suggest that ginkgo biloba may be able to prevent the onset of dementia or at least minimize its effects, and it is commonly used in Europe for the type of memory loss associated with blood flow.

Ginkgo biloba, which has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is available in tablets, capsules, and teas, but avoid the seeds as they can be toxic.

Fish Oils.
You’ve heard of Omega-3 fatty acids, but there are actually two types- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA plays a critical role in maintaining both the structure of your brain and how it operates. In fact, it accounts for about 25% of the total fat and 90% of the omega-3 fat found in your brain cells.

EPA supports brain cells in a different way; it has anti-inflammatory effects that may protect the brain against damage and aging. Furthermore, it has also even been shown to improve mood in people with depression. So, it makes sense to keep these substances available in your bloodstream. Taking a good omega-3 supplement will help do just that.

This supplement is a type of fat compound called a phospholipid, which can be found surrounding your brain’s cells, keeping them intact. Research has shown that taking 100 mg of phosphatidylserine three times per day could help reduce age-related decline in brain function.

Phosphatidylserine is not just for those who suspect they have some reduction in ability. In fact, when people without any documented memory took phosphatidylserine supplements of up to 400mg per day, they reported improved thinking skills and memory.

Ever hear of the protective effects of wine? It’s the resveratrol in the grape skins and seeds that protect cells from oxidative damage, or “aging.” Resveratrol supplements are used to prevent the deterioration of the hippocampus, the part of the brain chiefly associated with memory. Animal studies bear this out biologically, and in one human study, a small group of older adults found that taking 200mg of resveratrol per day for 26 weeks improved memory.

Bacopa Monnieri.
Here’s one you may not have heard about. Bacopa Monnieri is an herb used in medicinal practices like Ayurveda for improving brain function. Studies have shown that Bacopa Monnieri may improve thinking skills and memory, both in healthy people and in those suffering from a decline in brain function. Keep in mind though that this supplement must be taken repeatedly and at about a 300 mg/day dosage to be effective.

Three Other Supplements On The Horizon

Asian (or Panax) ginseng.
Often used with ginkgo biloba, Asian ginseng appears to show secondary effects on memory in studies looking at ginseng’s positive effects on fatigue.

Huperzine A.
Otherwise known as Chinese club moss, Huperzine A increases acetylcholine levels in the bloodstream and helps in diseases that interfere with thinking and memory. More research is needed for definitive statements on effectiveness.

Research on animals suggests that acetyl-L-carnitine supplements can prevent age-related decline in brain function and also improve the ability to learn new information and skills.

About the Author: Bob LeFavi

Bob LeFavi, PhD, is a professor of sports medicine and Dean of the Beaufort Campus at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort. He has been department head of health sciences and sports medicine at Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University, Savannah, GA. Bob won the bantamweight class at the IFBB NorthAmerican Bodybuilding Championship and was runner-up at both the USA and National Championships. He also competed in the CrossFit Games as a Master’s athlete and has written over 750 articles in the popular press on training, diet, and fitness.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.