How to Keep Your Memory Sharp

  • 21 Apr 2021
  • Reading time 7 mins
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brain and heart

Many people, from the age of 50, become concerned about declining memory and mental alertness. Actually, the start of brain changes that ultimately lead to Alzheimer’s dementia start earlier, in the 40’s. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are simple actions you can take right now that have been shown to stop the brain shrinking and keep your memory sharp.

According to researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers these simple actions account for up to 44% of the risk for Alzheimer’s[1] and, of all the prevention steps you can take to cut your risk, are the easiest for you to action.

These are:

  1. Ensure an optimal intake of omega-3 fats According to a robust double-blind, placebo controlled trial at the University of Oxford, those with declining memory, a raised homocysteine level, supplementing B vitamins resulted in 73% less brain shrinkage in one year, compared to placebo provided they had sufficient intake of omega-3 fats.[2]
  2. Keep your homocysteine level below 10mcmol/l with B vitamins

The point here is that you need both an optimal intake of omega-3 fats and enough B vitamins to keep your homocysteine down. I explain more about this in my report How to Boost Your Intelligence’. Here I explain that your brain cells (neurons) are made out of a combination of omega-3 fats (mainly DHA) attached to phospholipids, and that the linking of these two depends on B vitamins required for healthy methylation, which is what the blood test homocysteine measures. If your H score is high it means you don't have enough B vitamins for healthy methylation.

Omega-3 fats keep your brain healthy & memory sharp

The average person in the UK consumes 1 to 2 fish servings per week (217g).[3] According to the NIH researchers low fish/omega-3 intake versus high fish consumption accounts for 22% of Alzheimer’s cases and is associated with reduced brain volume.[4] Hence, the more fish you eat the more healthy grey matter there is in the brain.[5] Another survey found that eating one serving of oily fish a week was associated with halving the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Supplements of one key essential fat found in omega-3 fish oil, called DHA, have been shown to enhance memory in adults [6] who don’t eat fish, and to prevent memory loss in those in the early stages of memory decline.[7] Studies giving supplemental omega-3 fish oils have shown improved cognition in older people and positive structural changes in the brain.[8] Overall, what the studies to date show clearly is that memory significantly improves in people with or without mild memory complaints if given omega-3 supplements providing DHA/EPA at a daily intake of 1 gram of EPA/DHA or more.[9]

Also, having more omega-3 fats from diet has been shown to link to increased blood brain flow, according to researchers at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine. They selected a group of participants and found that the higher their omega-3 level in the blood the better was their blood brain flow rate, which is a hallmark of enhanced memory. According to study co-author William Harris "this raises the possibility that higher omega-3 EPA&DHA fatty acid levels can improve underlying brain physiology that may in turn translate to better cognitive reserve".[10]

Omega-3s may also protect the brain from amyloid plaque. The accumulation of amyloid protein, leading to the formation of ‘sticky’ amyloid plaque that stops the brain working, has long been argued to be a cause of memory loss and drugs, unsuccessfully, have targetted blocking amyloid formation. However, a small trial giving people both omega-3 and antioxidants has shown improved clearance (phagocytosis) of amyloid deposits in the brain.[11]

There’s another good reason to supplement omega-3 fish oils. Doing so may lower your homocysteine, which is the second proven memory protector. A meta-analysis of eleven trials in which people were given omega-3 fish oil capsules, the average drop in homocysteine was a significant 1.6 mcmol/l.[12]

While fish oil capsules only provide omega-3, eating oily fish gives you other nutrients, including the vital vitamin B12 that is the lynchpin of healthy methylation. But it’s not just oily fish. The more fish you eat, the better your memory test performance. All fish are also excellent sources of vitamins B12 [13], D and choline, all essential for the brain.

My strong advice is to both eating three servings of oily fish a week, and supplement over 550mg of combined EPA&DHA. This will give you the equivalent of 2 grams of omega-3, providing close to 1g of EPA&DHA a day, which is optimal for brain protection. This is what I eat and take with my two daily essential omega capsules.

B vitamins HELP TO KEEP HOMOCYSTEINE LOW

A high blood homocysteine level, which is the best way to know if you’re getting enough B vitamins for healthy methylation, is known to increase the rate of brain shrinkage.[14] You want to keep your ‘H’ score below 10mcmol/l. Something like one in three people over age 60 have an H score higher than this and are therefore at risk of dementia later in life.[15] This risk factor is estimated to account for 22% of Alzheimer’s disease according to the US National Institute of Health researchers.

Giving B6, B12 and folic acid supplements to people with high homocysteine has already shown a nine-fold reduction in brain shrinkage and a substantial reduction in rate of memory loss (cessation in some cases).[16] This is the only proven disease-modifying treatment to date and is thus the strongest prevention factor.

In an enlightened health service we would screen people from aged 50 for the first signs of cognitive impairment and, if present, measure homocysteine and, if above 10, give the B vitamins. This kind of preventive treatment with inexpensive B vitamins is likely to slow cognitive decline in approximately 80 older people each day or 30,000 per year in the UK as a conservative estimate, according to Professor David Smith who research at Oxford University is second to none. According to Oxford University’s health economist Apostolos Tsiachristas, this would save the NHS £66 million a year. [17].

Conclusion

By combining these two simple memory protective steps – taking daily B vitamins and omega-3s and eating wholefoods and fish – you get the best of both worlds regarding protecting your memory. I also supplement phospholipids and make a point ofto eating fish and eggs, high in phospholipids such as choline, which is part of the structure of brain cells.

So there you have it. Two simple ways to keep your memory sharp that anyone can do at any age. These two simple prevention steps are the ones with the most positive research showing that, if you take action you get memory protection. 

Do spread the word to anyone over 50 about the Food for the Brain’s Cognitive Function test. It gives clear prevention steps to follow.

In my ranges Brain Food and Connect are the B vitamin blends I have formulated based on the science, and Essential Omegas are the DHA and EPA - daily fatty acids.

REFERENCES

1. M Beydoun et al, BMC Public Health, 2014

2. F Jerneren et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2015

3. SACN, 2004

4. C Raji et al, Am J Prev Med, 2014

5. M Morris et al, Archives of Neurology, 2003

6. W Stonehouse et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2013

7. K Yurko-Maur et al, Alzheimer’s Dement, 2010

8. A Witte et al, Cereb Cortex, 2014

9. Yurko-Mauro K et al, PLoS ONE, 2015

10. D Amen et al, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017

11. M Fiala et al, FASEB J, 2015

12. T Huang et al, Nutrition, 2011

13. E Nurk et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2007; and A Vogiatzoglou, Am J Clin Nutr, 2009

14. AD Smith et al, PLoS One, 2010

15. A Vogliatzouglou et al, Neurology, 2008

16. AD Smith, PLoS ONE, 2010; also see C de Jager et al, Int J Geriatr Psychiatry, 2012; also see G Douaud et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2013

17 A.Tsiachristas, A. David Smith, Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, 2016

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