The goal of brain supplements is to keep current brain function intact and ward off brain-based disease
Of adults 55 and older, 79% take cognitive-enhancing or brain supplements in an effort to protect or improve their health and wellness, according to data revealed in the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2019 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.
Multivitamins are the most popular at 58%, but some older patients are interested in taking supplements designed to help protect one organ in particular: their brain.
Brain cognition and age
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 9 adults experience subjective cognitive decline (SCD), which it defines as “the self-reported experience of worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss.” Additionally, men report SCD slightly more often than women at 11.3% versus 10.6%.
While some cognitive decline does come with age, the CDC stresses that frequent trouble remembering, learning, and making judgments could be a sign that something else is amiss. Namely, it might be an early warning of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.
The National Institute on Aging adds that cognitive impairment can occur due to a number of different reasons. In addition to having Alzheimer’s or dementia, memory and other brain-based behaviors can also be inhibited from taking certain medications, experiencing metabolic or endocrine issues, or some other cause.
What seniors want from brain supplements
Some seniors take supplements in an effort to protect their brains against this type of cognitive decline and to preserve their quality of life. The goal is to keep their current brain function intact and hopefully ward off any form of dementia or other brain-based disease or illness.
This is especially important as Senior Living reports that only 3.1% of seniors live in nursing homes. Instead, if they need assistance, they prefer to go with in-home care.
Retaining enough independence to stay at home requires an ability to care for yourself, at least on a basic level. When memory issues start to make this impossible or judgment becomes compromised to the point where safety is an issue, at-home care isn’t always an option.
This is just another reason why some seniors turn to brain supplements. They want to protect or boost their brain’s ability to remember and reason.
Supplements supporting aging brain function
Research has shown that certain supplements can potentially help to protect older person’s cognitive abilities. For example, in 2010, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study involving 113 subjects between 50-75 years of age. None of these individuals had been diagnosed with dementia and all were living independently.
For four months, approximately one-half of the subjects took a supplement containing 34 different antioxidants with the remainder serving as a control. All five classes of antioxidants were represented in the supplement provided to the active group, and these classes are:
- amino acids
Each participant’s memory was tested both before and after the study. Individuals taking the antioxidant blend showed “significant improvement” on their memory tasks. The supplement group also had significantly reduced their serum homocysteine levels. If these levels are too high, blood clots and arterial damage can result.
The effects of deficiency on the brain
After reviewing survey results from 601 females and 530 males aged 60 or over, researchers noted that more than half were deficient in vitamin C, choline, and zinc. Additionally, male subjects not getting the recommended dietary allowance of choline had a greater likelihood of being among the lowest memory performers. The same was true for women who didn’t get enough B2 (riboflavin).
In cases such as these, supplements can help provide the nutrients not contained within their diets.
Supplements for better gut-brain health
The University of Washington (UW) Medicine Memory and Brain Wellness Center further reports the connection between the gut and the brain. For instance, it appears that individuals with Alzheimer’s have “unique, and less diverse” microorganisms in their gut than someone without this disease.
Taking supplements such as probiotics can help nurture a healthy gut which, in turn, can help nurture a healthy brain. Many food sources are also good for better gut health, including yogurt, sauerkraut, garlic, onions, and flaxseeds. The UW concludes that, while more research needs to be conducted in this area, the results look promising.