Boost Your Brain Power

“Elderly individuals who did this daily for 24 weeks showed an 1,800% increase in memory, attention, and cognitive function.”

I’m sure you’ve noticed ads for products that claim to enhance mental performance? After hearing all the research and the hype, I always try to ask myself the question “Why is that working? What’s the underlying mechanism?”

You could take 20 or 30 different nutrients to increase brain function, and each one of them has some rationale. But let’s consider “principles” that promote brain power rather than a specific “take this miracle product” approach.

We now know, contrary to our earlier understanding, that parts of the brain can regenerate though a process called neurogenesis. To stimulate and control neurogenesis, certain chemicals called neurotrophins are involved. One of the most exciting factors and one of the most active is a protein called BDNF, “brain derived neurotrophic facto.”

BDNF is an essential key player in creating new neurons and protecting old ones. Some of the factors that are involved in turning on BDNF are voluntary exercise, caloric reduction, and intellectual stimulation. I say voluntary exercise because lab animals that were stressed or forced to exercise did NOT have  the same benefits as those who could exercise at will.

Medical researchers at the University of Western Australia found that elderly individual’s who exercised the equivalent of just 20 minutes a day, for 24 weeks, showed an 1800 percent increase in memory, attention and other cognitive functions. One reason exercise may be so important is that BDNF is also found in skeletal muscle. It appears that as BDNF in the muscle increases so does BDNF in the brain. Just hearing about that kind of results makes me want to go jogging.

Next, let’s consider caloric reduction. More and more research reports the benefits of caloric reduction, and one of those benefits is an increase in BDNF. The typical American consumes an average of 500 more calories a day than they consumed in 1970. So reducing calories from the estimated 3,700 to 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men is not a huge discomfort. Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain. Another interesting note is that “BDNF levels are LOW in those with obesity and also in patients with Type II diabetes.”

Just as exercise can increase BDNF in the muscles, mental exercise can also increase BDNF in the brain. BDNF is increased with problem solving, intellectual stimulation, and according to neurologist Dr. David Purlmutter even meditation. I never thought about it, but in a way, learning new concepts and ways to apply them here on the Wellness Minute may be actually increasing BDNF in your brain. Every little bit helps, right?

Of course, it will come as no surprise that stress is one of the major factors which negatively affects brain health. We can break stress into 4 major categories: inflammatory stress, oxidative stress, toxic stress (both internal and external toxins) and of course emotional stress. It takes energy to deal with these stresses. When our energy supplies are depleted, the effects of these stresses accumulate and cells begin to function at less than optimal rates.

Cellular repair mechanisms need energy to rebuild, repair and reproduce healthy cells. That’s why it’s so important to follow a few core principles and enforce your brain power with core nutrients like a quality multi-vitamin / mineral as well as pure oils like Omega 3 fish oils. More than 2/3 of the dry weight of the human brain is fat. Healthy oils are beneficial to promote healthy brain plasticity between synapses of brain cells.

We actually do reap numerous benefits by practicing core principles. More specifically I’m referring to wellness principles that encourage and promote life. Along with that, consider voluntary exercise, caloric reduction and intellectual stimulation as KEY components for optimal brain health.

When it comes to core nutrients, you can obtain professional grade nutrients through Dr. Godo’s office. Feel free to ask Dr. Godo for other tips on how you can stay sharp and how you can increase your brain power.