• LION’S MANE
Extracts of this medicinal mushroom have been found to boost levels of a natural substance known as ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor’. BDNF promotes ‘neuroplasticity’, helping brain cells form new connections and supporting mental functions such as learning and memory.
BDNF has also been found to stimulate the regeneration of brain cells, specifically in a part of the brain called the ‘hippocampus’. This has particular relevance as the hippocampus is typically the part of the brain most affected in individuals with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. One study in those officially diagnosed with cognitive impairment found that supplementation with Lion’s Mane steadily improved cognitive function over a four-month period compared to placebo.
The Lion’s Mane was then stopped, and there was a subsequent decline in cognitive function. What this study shows is that Lion’s Mane can bring a significant boost in brain function, but sustained use is required to enjoy these benefits in the long term.
Lithium is a nutrient (a mineral) that is used in psychiatry is used in very high dose to treat bipolar disorder. However, at much lower and entirely safe dosages, lithium has been shown to have multiple beneficial effects on the brain including the boosting of BDNF, and an anti-inflammatory action. This latter effect has relevance because low-level inflammation is a known cause of cognitive issues and dementia.
- FOLATE, VITAMIN B6 AND VITAMIN B12
These vitamins reduce levels of the amino acid ‘homocysteine’, higher levels of which are a risk factor for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Supplementing with these nutrients has been shown to have the potential to improve cognitive function and slow ‘brain atrophy’ over time.
It has also been suggested that these nutrients may bring benefits through a direct positive action on the brain, in addition to their homocysteine-lowering effect.
IODINE AND VITAMIN D
Both of these nutrients are recognised for their role in healthy cognitive function. Of relevance here is that fact that a large proportion of the population is known to have insufficient levels of one or both of these nutrients.