Upcoming Issue Highlights

Something to Think About

Cognitive Health Cognitive Health

Sustaining cognitive abilities is more than a desire today; it’s a need, as lives are busier than ever. Here’s why emphasizing this category is a good thought.

All your customers can be brainiacs. And it’s a sure bet that most want to be.

Our cognitive demands are wider, deeper and more sustained than ever. In the current digital/internet age, we are all immersed in activities that require thoughtful reaction, and increased learning and communicating.

Today’s brain health supplement market is no longer dominated by seniors wanting to prevent disruptive memory loss. Students are increasingly desirous of boosting their brains’ “superpowers” in order to achieve good grades, be victorious in gaming, and make numerous social media posts, expanding their personal networks. Today’s middle-agers also want to waylay brain fog and be consistently quick to remember and quick to problem solve.

But stressful lives tend to work against cognitive expediency: stress increases inflammatory markers and impedes healthy sleep. When both conditions linger, the brain has a more difficult time processing information.

Jennifer Weinhardt, research and development specialist with Texas-based Bluebonnet Nutrition, pointed out that the average human brain comprises approximately 2 percent of body weight yet consumes nearly 20 percent of its energy while at rest. It is a demanding organ, necessitating significant amounts of nutrients it needs to function and to maintain a normal structure.

“Exciting new research tells us that modifying nutrition and supplementation using nootropic nutrients, or cognitive enhancers, can be beneficial for improving areas like mental energy, focus and attention, as well as memory,” she related. Examples of these nutrients include fish oil/essential fatty acids, Ginkgo biloba, acetyl l-carnitine and phosphatidylserine.

Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at Wisconsin-based EuroPharma, Inc. said she believes that the increasing recognition that inflammation plays such a major role in the brain and in the development of cognitive conditions is a real step forward in dietary supplement research and development. This, she noted, is a significant departure in how brain health support was perceived in the recent past, when the brain was primarily viewed “as a chemical-based natural computer, and that if we simply adjusted the chemical balance, all would be well. While that’s not entirely wrong, it isn’t the whole picture, either. Many of the conditions that affect us have a lot to do with the levels of inflammation that we are always fighting, to one degree or another.”

Myers added that in tandem, research is also revealing and validating ways that diet impacts cognitive processes, including how diet can potentially harm the brain, and that means “that we’re slowly heading in the right direction. It means that people will address cognitive concerns in through their daily lives and with clinically validated nutrients.”

Formulas for Cognition Support

As with other condition-specific categories, formulas for cognitive support are based on ingredients that have impressive portfolios of research.

Fish oil expert Carlson Labs in Illinois, has three newer supplements for a range of ages and needs in the cognitive department. Lemon-flavor-ed Super Omega-3 provides 2,600 mg of omega-3s per teaspoonful, including 1,350 mg of EPA and 1,000 mg of DHA; according to the company, it is a great option for those who want to receive more omega-3s per serving or who have trouble swallowing soft gels. Carlson Labs’ orange-flavored Elite DHA provides a highly concentrated dose of 2,270 mg of DHA in a single teaspoonful to support brain, vision, and mood health. And because teens need a lot of nutritional support, Carlson Labs’ orange-flavored Smart Catch for Teens provides a highly concentrated dose of 1,135 mg of DHA per 1/2 teaspoonful.

According to Myers, EuroPharma’s omega-3 supplement, Vectomega, provides peptides that reduce anxiety and phospholipids that not only act as the transport mechanism for the omega-3s, but also provide strong brain support on their own. “DHA and phospholipids make up a great deal of our brain,” Myers explained. The brain is composed of approximately 60 percent fat of which up to 20 percent is DHA; therefore, it requires phospholipids and DHA to develop properly and age well. In an in-vitro study, researchers pre-treated neuronal cells with DHA from the same phospholipid-bound omega-3 source found in Vectomega for 48 hours before exposing these cells to soluble oligomers of amyloid-beta peptide, which are known to cause brain cell damage. The researchers found that the DHA pretreatment greatly increased neuronal survival and reduced damage.

Bluebonnet Nutrition’s Power Thought Caplets provide a complementary blend of cognitive-enhancing nutrients (phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine, DMAE, taurine and l-tyrosine).

Weinhardt explained that phosphatidylcholine is a phospholipid that is a major constituent of all cell membranes, which is important for their maintenance and repair. Phosphatidylcholine is a precursor for the essential nutrient choline, which is a precursor for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine enhances the communication between neurons, promoting the brain’s ability to process, retain and retrieve information for healthy cognitive function.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid needed for the normal functioning of neuronal cell membranes by modulating their fluidity, which is critical to the brain cells’ ability to send and receive chemical communications. PS has been shown in some studies to improve learning, memory and cognitive function by enabling brain cells to metabolize glucose and release/bind with neurotransmitters more effectively. PS, Weinhardt described, “basically increases communication between cells in the brain by acting as a natural emulsifier (compounds that help keep fats suspended in liquid environment), thereby enhancing the cells ability to communicate within the liquid environments of the blood and cellular fluids for optimal brain health.”

DMAE and pyroglutamic acid, both of which help to maintain adequate amounts of acetylcholine in the body, and Ginkgo biloba extract a brain-friendly antioxidant. Since the brain and heart are susceptible to oxidative stress, antioxidants are essential to maintain their cellular health. The herb’s effect on cognitive function/memory, Weinhardt noted, can also be attributed to its effect on blood vessel dilation, which enhances circulation, allowing the brain to have ample amounts of oxygen for optimal function.

The formula also features the amino acid taurine found in high concentrations in the brain. The brain and nervous system all require adequate amounts of taurine to function at the highest levels. Furthermore, as an antioxidant, taurine donates electrons to oxygen free radicals, neutralizing them before they create cellular and tissue damage. L-tyrosine, also in Power Thought is metabolized into norepinephrine and epinephrine, the body’s two main stress-related hormones. Norepinephrine and epinephrine help the body adapt to and cope with the effects of physical or psychological stress, which can adversely affect cognitive function.

Ingredient Synergy

EuroPharma’s CuraMed Brain, said Myers, features a clinically studied curcumin (BCM-95) that is blended with turmeric essential oil for enhanced absorption, blood retention, and turmerones, which are anti-inflammatory compounds in the oil, according to Myers, adding that the formula is targeted to controlling inflammation in the brain and supporting the function of neural connections. CuraMed Brain also contains vitamin D3, and the concentrated rosemary and sage oils.

Curcumin protects brain cells from damage that may be incurred by unhealthy levels of inflammation. In experimental models of Alzheimer’s disease, Myers reported, curcumin was shown to reduce beta amyloid levels and shrink the size of accumulated plaques by over 30 percent. Other studies have shown that curcumin plays a role in regenerating neurons, and refreshing cells that may have once been considered irretrievable.

Another nutraceutical, vitamin D, directly affects cognitive health and abilities, according to Myers. At around age 65, humans’ ability to naturally synthesize vitamin D from sunlight declines by up to 60 percent. “Compared to people who have optimal levels of vitamin D, low levels of vitamin D at age 65 mean you are twice as likely to experience mental decline,” she commented. “In fact, a Dutch study found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease but high serum levels of vitamin D3 scored significantly higher on cognitive testing than those with low levels of the nutrient.”

Another clinical study tracked adult volunteers aged 65 and older for six years, their vitamin D levels, and their elevated risk of dementia, she added. At the end of the study, they found that even moderate deficiencies in vitamin D increased the risk to 53 percent, and 69 percent for Alzheimer’s. These percentages were seen in those who are only moderately deficient, those individuals with more pronounced vitamin D deficiencies were assessed at much higher risks for both diseases (125 and 122 percent, respectively).

Research showed that the combination of vitamin D and curcumin can protect the brain from inflammation and decrease development of amyloid plaques by stimulating macrophages to more aggressively seek out and clean up beta-amyloid fragments in the brain. “Curcumin and vitamin D work synergistically—they strengthen one another’s impact—and are a potent protective force for the brain,” Myers commented.

Concentrated plant oils from rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia) plants have a long history of use as aids to enhancing memory and learning, likely from their ability to preserve acetylcholine. Research suggests these plant oils inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. “This is similar to how prescription drugs work, but without the serious adverse effects,” Myers said.

The ability to retain memory and be able to concentrate and continue to learn is something that many people of all ages take for granted, but will never want to lose. It’s never too late for your customers (and their loved ones) to start taking cognition and brain support supplements. It’s something to think about! VR

For More Information:
Bluebonnet Nutrition, (281) 240-3332
Carlson Labs, (888) 234-5656
EuroPharma USA, (866) 598-5487

Autism Hope AllianceNorth American Herb & Spice