11 Best Supplements for Brain Health: Boosting Cognitive Performance

Unlocking the full potential of our minds is a fascinating and empowering pursuit, as it can lead to greater success, creativity, and overall well-being. A healthy brain is vital for cognitive tasks like problem-solving and decision-making and plays a crucial role in managing our emotions and maintaining strong social connections.

As we strive to optimize our brain health and cognitive function, many people turn to natural supplements to support their mental performance.

In this article, we will delve into the significance of nurturing healthy brain function, investigate the connection between cognitive decline and brain function, and unveil the top 11 supplements that can help you enhance your mental abilities naturally.

Understanding how these supplements work and incorporating them into a well-rounded approach to brain health can amplify your cognitive prowess and maintain a sharp, resilient mind throughout your life.

What Does Brain Health Entail?

Brain health involves key cognitive abilities that impact our daily lives, including memory, attention, processing speed, and problem-solving skills. Memory aids learning and adaptation, while attention helps us focus and filter distractions.

Processing speed affects our ability to think and react quickly, and problem-solving skills enable us to analyze complex situations and make informed decisions. Nurturing these cognitive functions unlocks our full mental potential for a fulfilling and successful life. Various factors influence brain health, such as genetics, environment, lifestyle, and nutrition.

The Connection Between Brain Health and Cognitive Decline

Cognitive decline refers to the gradual decrease in cognitive abilities over time, with symptoms such as memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and slower processing speed. Various factors, including aging, neurodegenerative diseases, and lifestyle choices, can contribute to cognitive decline.

This decline negatively impacts overall brain health, diminishing our ability to think, learn, and communicate effectively, leading to decreased independence and reduced quality of life.

By maintaining good brain health through proper nutrition, regular physical activity, mental stimulation, quality sleep, and stress management, we can support our cognitive functions and potentially delay the onset of cognitive decline, ensuring a sharp and resilient mind throughout our lives.

Can Supplements Really Help with Brain Health?

Scientific evidence suggests that certain supplements can help maintain and improve cognitive functions by providing essential nutrients, promoting blood flow, and protecting brain cells from damage. However, it’s crucial to approach supplements cautiously, as not all have strong evidence supporting their benefits.

Supplements should be integrated into a comprehensive regimen to support brain health, including a balanced diet, regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and proper sleep, to experience potential cognitive benefits while minimizing risks and ensuring optimal well-being.

The 11 Best Supplements for Brain Health

The following list includes 11 research-backed brain health supplement options that can help improve focus and concentration:

Omega-3 fatty acids

These essential fats are vital for brain development and cardiovascular health due to their anti-inflammatory properties. A high dose of DHA (900 mg) can contribute to improved cognitive function and potentially slow cognitive decline in healthy elderly individuals. [1]

B Vitamins

Folate, vitamin B6, and B12 have been linked to enhanced cognitive function and may help slow cognitive decline in people without dementia. Folate is also associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia. [2]

Blueberry

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, which support cardiovascular health, liver function, and improved brain function. They have shown benefits in promoting brain health for people with cognitive decline, and animal studies suggest potential advantages for young, healthy individuals. [3][4]

Caffeine

This nootropic stimulates neurons and improves cognitive function by enhancing reaction time. Caffeine also promotes alertness and clinical research has shown it can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. [5][6]

L-Theanine

When combined with caffeine, L-theanine enhances cognitive function by reducing caffeine-induced over-excitability without diminishing its stimulatory effect. This combination leads to improved focus and attention span.[7]

Gingko Biloba

Research suggests that Ginkgo biloba may improve cognitive functions in people with dementia [8] and provide potential cognitive performance benefits for healthy middle-aged and older people. [9][10]

Rhodiola Rosea

This adaptogenic herb helps reduce brain fog, fatigue, and stress while improving mental performance, particularly in high-pressure situations. [11]

Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is a herb used in traditional medicine to improve cognitive function and support longevity. Research has indicated that taking this herb can provide mental health benefits and improve memory, particularly in the short term. Studies show that it can enhance various types of memory, including working memory, in healthy individuals and those experiencing cognitive decline. [12]

Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a fat-soluble compound derived from amino acids in the brain, supporting cognitive function. Fish is a rich source of PS and has been associated with improved memory and lower cortisol levels in the elderly. Evidence suggests that daily phosphatidylserine supplements within the 15-50mg/kg range can help counter the cognitive decline in aging rats. [13]

Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Studies suggest that Lion’s Mane Mushroom may protect against cognitive decline caused by β-amyloid pigmentation in rats. Humans who consumed 3g of 98% Lion’s Mane powder in capsule form saw improvement in dementia rating scales, potentially benefiting overall cognitive health. [14]

Cholinergics

Cholinergics can boost acetylcholine levels in the brain, enhancing muscle strength, reflexes, and potentially even learning ability.

Frequently Asked Questions about Supplements for Brain Health

Here are some of the most common questions people ask regarding supplements that promote brain health.

  • Do brain supplements really work? Research supports the effectiveness of certain brain health supplements, but individual results may vary.
  • Are brain health supplements safe? Most brain health supplements are safe when used as directed, but it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
  • Can I take brain health supplements while pregnant or nursing? It’s important to consult your healthcare provider before taking any supplements during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • Are there any side effects of brain health supplements? Some supplements may cause side effects or interact with medications. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement.

Simple Tips for Improving Brain Health

In addition to the best brain supplements, consider these strategies for maintaining and enhancing optimal brain health:

  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet: Ensure optimal nutrient intake, particularly iodine, zinc, copper, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B12, and folic acid. Supplementation may be advised if dietary intake is inadequate.
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Incorporating movement into your daily routine can increase blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive performance. Choose activities you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, dancing, or yoga, to help maintain overall brain health and function.
  • Participate in mentally stimulating activities: Challenge your brain with puzzles, reading, learning a new language, or playing a musical instrument to maintain and improve cognitive function.
  • Prioritize quality sleep: Prioritize getting sufficient, restorative sleep to allow the brain to recover and consolidate memories.
  • Stress management: Practice nervous system regulation through techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to alleviate stress and maintain a healthy brain.

Conclusion

Prioritizing brain health is essential for a fulfilling, successful life. You can unlock your full cognitive potential by incorporating the right supplements and a comprehensive approach that includes a nutritious diet, physical activity, mental stimulation, quality sleep, and stress management.

The 11 supplements discussed in this article have scientific backing and can boost brain power and support cognitive ability.

Adopting these healthy habits and integrating the right supplements will empower you with the mental clarity and cognitive agility needed to thrive in today’s demanding world, paving the way for a brighter, more cognitively resilient future.

REFERENCES:

[1] Yurko-Mauro K, McCarthy D, Rom D, Nelson EB, Ryan AS, Blackwell A, Salem N Jr, Stedman M; MIDAS Investigators. Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline. Alzheimers Dement. 2010 Nov;6(6):456-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2010.01.013. PMID: 20434961.

[2] Wang Z, Zhu W, Xing Y, Jia J, Tang Y. B vitamins and prevention of cognitive decline and incident dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Rev. 2022 Mar 10;80(4):931-949. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuab057. PMID: 34432056.

[3] Hein S, Whyte AR, Wood E, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Williams CM. Systematic Review of the Effects of Blueberry on Cognitive Performance as We Age. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Jun 18;74(7):984-995. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glz082. PMID: 30941401.

[4] Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Apr 14;58(7):3996-4000. doi: 10.1021/jf9029332. PMID: 20047325; PMCID: PMC2850944.

[5] Adan A, Serra-Grabulosa JM. Effects of caffeine and glucose, alone and combined, on cognitive performance. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2010 Jun-Jul;25(4):310-7. doi: 10.1002/hup.1115. PMID: 20521321.

[6] Childs E, de Wit H. Subjective, behavioral, and physiological effects of acute caffeine in light, nondependent caffeine users. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 May;185(4):514-23. doi: 10.1007/s00213-006-0341-3. Epub 2006 Mar 16. PMID: 16541243.

[7] Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Aug;11(4):193-8. doi: 10.1179/147683008X301513. PMID: 18681988.

[8] Hashiguchi M, Ohta Y, Shimizu M, Maruyama J, Mochizuki M. Meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of Ginkgo biloba extract for the treatment of dementia. J Pharm Health Care Sci. 2015 Apr 10;1:14. doi: 10.1186/s40780-015-0014-7. PMID: 26819725; PMCID: PMC4729005.

[9] Kaschel R. Specific memory effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in middle-aged healthy volunteers. Phytomedicine. 2011 Nov 15;18(14):1202-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.06.021. Epub 2011 Jul 30. PMID: 21802920.

[10] Mix JA, Crews WD Jr. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsychological findings. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2002 Aug;17(6):267-77. doi: 10.1002/hup.412. PMID: 12404671.

[11] Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, Mironova IA, Neumoin VV. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine. 2000 Apr;7(2):85-9. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80078-1. PMID: 10839209.

[12] 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. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0018. PMID: 18611150; PMCID: PMC3153866.

[13] Calderini G, Aporti F, Bellini F, Bonetti AC, Teolato S, Zanotti A, Toffano G. Pharmacological effect of phosphatidylserine on age-dependent memory dysfunction. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1985;444:504-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1985.tb37626.x. PMID: 3860111.

[14] Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2634. PMID: 18844328.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.