By Sarah LoBisco, ND
I recently posted a blog on brain health. In it, I provided evidence that our genes aren’t the main determinants of our health. It is their interplay with the environment that results in symptoms and diseases.
This is exciting news. It means that lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and supplements can empower our health by how our genes are expressed!
This is especially true in relation to cognition and brain health. Various lifestyle factors, supplements, and foods have been linked to memory, mood, and overall brain functioning (including dementia prevention).
1. The links between cognitive power and protein breakfasts and how cognitive decline is associated with high sugar, soft drinks, and gluten.
2. How high quality fish and krill oil, with omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) impact memory and brain health
3. Olive oil for dementia prevention
4. N-Acetyl Cysteine, an amino acid supplement, was found beneficial in alleviating schizophrenia symptoms vs. controls in one study!
Below are the abstract specifics for your reading pleasure (bold emphasis mine). Enjoy!
Fish Oil on the Brain
Encouragingly, the very first trial to test omega-3 capsules in younger healthy adults detected real brain benefits … see “Omega-3s Boosted Young Adults’ Brains”, from the Omega-3s & Brain Health section of our news archive.
Now, UK scientists report the results of a similar trial, with similarly positive outcomes (Stonehouse W et al. 2013). Few Americans consume enough omega-3s, and most consume far too many omega-6s from vegetable oils, which compete for space in our cell membranes.
If the new findings prompt more people to take healthy daily doses of fish oil, that could yield broad, substantial societal and personal benefits. …
There were some gender-specific variations in the outcomes:
Women improved more than men did on tests of episodic memory.
Men improved more than women did on tests of working memory reaction time.
Weatherby, C. Fishy Omega-3 Boosted Younger Brains. VitalChoice Newsletter. March 28, 2013.
Krill Oil’s Brain Boosting Power
In this study we tried to confirm the effect of an astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function in 96 subjects by a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled study. Healthy middle-aged and elderly subjects who complained of age-related forgetfulness were recruited. Ninety-six subjects were selected from the initial screen, and ingested a capsule containing astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract, or a placebo capsule for 12 weeks. … In conclusion, the results suggested that astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract improves cognitive function in the healthy aged individuals.
Mikiyuki Katagiri, Akira Satoh,2Shinji Tsuji,& Takuji Shirasawa. Effects of astaxanthin-rich Haematococcus pluvialis extract on cognitive function: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2012 September; 51(2): 102-107. Published online 2012 March 30. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.11-00017
NAC and Schizophrenia
Brain glutathione levels are decreased in schizophrenia, a disorder that often is chronic and refractory to treatment. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) increases brain glutathione in rodents. This study was conducted to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of oral NAC (1 g orally twice daily [b.i.d.]) as an add-on to maintenance medication for the treatment of chronic schizophrenia over a 24-week period.
METHODS: A randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The primary readout was change from baseline on the Positive and Negative Symptoms Scale (PANSS) and its components. Secondary readouts included the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) Severity and Improvement scales, as well as general functioning and extrapyramidal rating scales. Changes following a 4-week treatment discontinuation were evaluated. One hundred forty people with chronic schizophrenia on maintenance antipsychotic medication were randomized; 84 completed treatment.
RESULTS: Intent-to-treat analysis revealed that subjects treated with NAC improved more than placebo-treated subjects over the study period in PANSS total [-5.97 (-10.44, -1.51), p = .009], PANSS negative [mean difference -1.83 (95% confidence interval: -3.33, -.32), p = .018], and PANSS general [-2.79 (-5.38, -.20), p = .035], CGI-Severity (CGI-S) [-.26 (-.44, -.08), p = .004], and CGI-Improvement (CGI-I) [-.22 (-.41, -.03), p = .025] scores. No significant change on the PANSS positive subscale was seen. N-acetyl cysteine treatment also was associated with an improvement in akathisia (p = .022). Effect sizes at end point were consistent with moderate benefits.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that adjunctive NAC has potential as a safe and moderately effective augmentation strategy for chronic schizophrenia.
Berk M, Copolov D, Dean O, Lu K, Jeavons S, Schapkaitz I, Anderson-Hunt M, Judd F, Katz F, Katz P, Ording-Jespersen S, Little J, Conus P, Cuenod M, Do KQ, Bush AI. N-acetyl cysteine as a glutathione precursor for schizophrenia–a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Sep 1;64(5):361-8. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Apr 23.
One of My Favorite Herbs and Brain Health
In a laboratory study using human brain cells at the pharmacy college of Thailand’s Naresuan University, researchers duplicated the scenario of beta-amyloid-induced damage of Alzheimer’s disease among brain cells.
When the researchers treated the brain cells with tested Bacopa monnieri, the beta-amyloid-induced Alzheimer’s damage was halted. The researchers observed that, “Brahmi-treated neurons expressed lower level of reactive oxygen species suggesting that Brahmi restrained intracellular oxidative stress which in turn prolonged the lifespan of the culture neurons. Brahmi extract also exhibited both reducing and lipid peroxidation inhibitory activities.”
Adams, C. Ayurvedic Herb Improves Memory, Cognition and Alzheimer’s. GreenMedInfo.com. 2/13/13.
Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, Kraemer D, Bone K, Oken B. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jul;14(6):707-13.
Peth-Nui T, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S, Tong-Un T, Piyavhatkul N, Rangseekajee P, Ingkaninan K, Vittaya-Areekul S. Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:606424.
The Olive and Brain Connection
Extra-virgin olive oil-derived oleocanthal associated with the consumption of Mediterranean diet has the potential to reduce the risk of AD or related neurodegenerative dementias,” the report concludes.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, another study found that olive oil is an effective way of satiating hunger pangs and curbing the munchies. For their research, Austrian researchers fed participants yogurt enriched with lard, butterfat, rapeseed oil or olive oil.
The result? Olive oil had the biggest satiety effect.
AFP Relax News. Olive Oil Helps Protect Brain From Alzheimer’s And Related Dementias. Daily News (nydailynews.com), March 25, 2013.