Many people are interested in how they can maintain their brain health, maximize their cognitive abilities, and/or stave off brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. At Cognitive Vitality, we recently discussed the problems associated with "pseudo medicine" where many dietary supplements are marketed to benefit brain health or prevent dementia based on unsubstantiated claims. The 2019 AARP Brain Health and Dietary Supplements Survey (PDF) reported that more than a quarter of Americans over the age of 50 are regularly taking supplements for their brain health. This month, the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) published a report on brain health supplements (PDF) and concluded that for most people, the best way to get nutrients important for brain health is from eating a healthy diet.
The GCBH was convened by the AARP and its members are healthcare professionals (including the ADDF's Founding Executive Director and Chief Science Officer, Howard Fillit, MD), scientists, and policy experts, with diverse expertise spanning nutrition, epidemiology, genetics, geriatric psychiatry, gerontology, internal medicine, neurology, neuroscience, public health, and dietary supplement testing and regulation. This report focused on the vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that were commonly marketed for brain health, including B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, apoaequorin, caffeine, coenzyme Q10, curcumin, cocoa, Ginkgo biloba, huperzine A, medium-chain triglycerides (coconut oil), melatonin, nicotinamide riboside, omega-3 fatty acids, and phosphatidylserine. Experts examined the evidence on whether dietary supplements can impact people's cognitive functions and summarized their consensus along with their recommendations and tips.
See the full report.
Although the evidence to date does not point to a magic pill that promotes lifelong brain health, new evidence is emerging every day. In the report, the GCBH encouraged supplement manufacturers to conduct rigorous clinical trials to test their claims for brain health and to have the data independently reviewed by other scientists who can evaluate the supplements' effects in an unbiased way. In the meantime, there are seven steps to protect your cognitive vitality that you can start following right away, including eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, reducing stress, being social, learning new things, and managing chronic diseases (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes).
Yuko Hara, PhD, is Director of Aging and Alzheimer's Prevention at the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. Dr. Hara was previously an Assistant Professor in Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she remains an adjunct faculty member. Her research focused on brain aging, specifically how estrogens and reproductive aging influence the aging brain's synapses and mitochondria. She earned a doctorate in neurology and neuroscience at Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University and a bachelor's degree in biology from Cornell University, with additional study at Keio University in Japan. Dr. Hara has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, including articles in PNAS and Journal of Neuroscience.
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