However, losing your memory is not something you have to accept. There is much you can do with nutrition and supplements to help enhance your memory and mind, and protect yourself from memory decline.
This article explains which six key nutrients your body needs to make the key brain chemicals that enhance your memory.
1. Choline – The Building Blocks of Acetylcholine
The key brain chemical for memory is called acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter - it delivers messages between your brain cells or neurons. It is derived from the nutrient choline, which you can get by eating egg yolks and fish, especially sardines. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is also essential for the formation of acetylcholine.
Many studies show that giving choline during pregnancy can create ‘super brains' in the baby. It is essential for proper brain development. Supplementing choline in adults has also proven to boost memory, if given in high doses. A study at Florida International University gave 41 people aged 50 to 80, 500mg of choline every day for five weeks. They reported having half as many memory lapses, such as forgetting names or losing things.
Some forms of choline cross more easily from the blood into the brain – particularly phosphatidyl choline, or PC for short, and a precursor for choline called DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol). Combining choline with other smart nutrients has proven much more effective at even lower doses.
2. DMAE – A Natural Brain Stimulant
DMAE reduces anxiety, stops the mind racing, improves concentration, promotes learning and acts as a mild brain stimulant. Dr Bernard Rimland in California, found it to be almost twice as effective in treating children with attention deficit disorder as the drug Ritalin, without the side-effects.
The ideal dose for memory enhancement is 100mg or more, taken in the morning or midday, not in the evening. Don't expect immediate results. DMAE can take two to three weeks to work but it's worth waiting for.
3. Phosphatidyl Serine: the Memory Molecule
For neurotransmitters to work properly it’s important that their receptor site or ‘docking port’, on the brain cell is fully functioning. These receptor sites are literally built out of two key nutrients – phosphatidyl serine (PS) and essential fats, principally the omega 3 fat, DHA.
Known as the memory molecule, PS is another smart nutrient that can genuinely boost your brain power. While the body can make its own PS, we rely on receiving some directly from diet, which makes PS a semi-essential nutrient. The trouble is that modern diets are deficient in PS unless you happen to eat a lot of organ meats, in which case you may take in 50mg a day. A vegetarian diet is unlikely to achieve even 10mg a day.
It is particularly helpful for those with learning difficulties or age-related memory decline. In one study 149 people with age-associated memory impairment were given a daily dose of 300mg of PS or a placebo. When tested after 12 weeks, the ability of those on the PS to match names to faces (a recognised measure of memory and mental function) improved to the equivalent level of people 12 years younger.
4. DHA – Why Fish is Good for the Brain
The omega 3 fat, DHA, is found mainly in oily fish. DHA is particularly important during early life and for the over 50s. Numerous studies show that adults taking DHA have enhanced memory protection, and healthier brain tissue, less likely to shrink with age.
An ideal intake of DHA a day is in the order of 250 to 500mg. 250mg is equivalent to eating 100g of oily fish, preferably salmon, mackerel, tuna or herring, three or four times a week.
Alternatively you can take a supplement of fish oils containing DHA which is what I do every day, supplementing 250mg. In fact, I do both to achieve the equivalent of 500mg a day.
5. Pyroglutamate – The Master of Communication
The amino acid pyroglutamate and its derivatives, which are highly concentrated in the human brain and spinal fluid, improve learning, memory, concentration and the speed of reflexes.
Pyroglutamate does three things that helps memory and mental alertness. It increases the production of acetylcholine, it also increases the number of receptors for acetylcholine and improves communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In other words, it improves the brain's talking, listening and cooperation.
Pyroglutamate is found in many foods, including fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. The most common form found in supplements is arginine pyroglutamate. You need about 400mg to 1000mg a day for a optimal brain function.
6. Don’t Forget Your B Vitamins
B vitamins have many roles to play in ensuring optimal brain function. B6, B12 and folate are needed for building new neurons or brain cells. Niacin, or B3, is particularly good for memory enhancement.
In one study 141mg of niacin was given daily to a group of subjects of various ages. Memory was improved by 10-40 per cent in all age groups. B5 (pantothenic acid) is essential for the brain to make acetycholine.
It is important to remember that B vitamins should be taken in a complex, ie all together and, if you wish to concentrate on a specific B vitamin, take this in conjunction with a B complex or multivitamin.
The Synergy Effect
Since nutrients are more powerful in combination, my daily ‘brain food’, which I take every day, in addition to a healthy diet and basic supplement programme, consists of supplementing a combination of the following mind and memory support nutrients:
Nutrient Daily Amounts
|Phosphatidyl choline||250mg to 400mg|
|DMAE||200mg to 300mg|
|Phosphatidyl serine||20mg to 45mg|
|Arginine pyroglutamate||300mg to 450mg|
|Ginkgo||20mg to 30mg|
|Niacin (B3)||10mg to 15mg|
|B12||5mcg to 10mcg|
|Folic acid||100mcg to 200mcg|
|Pantothenic acid||200mg to 300mg|
If you are over 50 or suffering from age-related memory decline I recommend you add the following every day:
|Glutamine powder||5000mg (one heaped teaspoon)|
For further information and referenced studies, read Optimum Nutrition for the Mind.