Two Proven Ways to Keep Your Memory Sharp

  • 1 Sep 2017
  • Reading time 11 mins
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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 two 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 two 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. Keep your homocysteine level below 10mcmol/l with B vitamins

2. 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]

The point here is that you need both an optimal intake of omega-3 fats and enough B vitamins to keep your homocysteine down. If you read my recent special report ‘ How to Boost Your Intelligence’ you’ll know 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 increase 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 level 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 trail 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.

Keep your homocysteine low with B vitamins

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] The charity Food for the Brain has been helping people do this by offering a free online Cognitive Function Test, and giving advice, and a letter to give to your GP to encourage homocysteine testing. In Sweden this is a standard test but, in the UK it is very hard to get tested on the NHS unless you have an enlightened GP who pays attention to the scientific evidence.

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.

In the Oxford study, in which people with memory impairment were given high dose B vitamins, those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fats (in the top third) had the most improvement in cognition and memory, and the best chance of clinical improvement. Not only was brain shrinkage reduced by a massive 73% compared to placebo over one year, the resulting rate of brain shrinkage was below that found in healthy people with no measurable age-related memory decline. Also, there was virtually no further memory decline. The study authors found that it was the DHA level in the blood, more than the EPA level, that predicted improvement.[18]

So there you have it. Two simple ways to keep your memory sharp that anyone can do at any age. If you are over 50 it is well worth having your homocysteine level checked which you may have to do privately. Yorktest have a hometest kit. 100% Health Club Members get substantial discounts on tests so it’s well worth your while joining first.

If your homocysteine level is below 10 (ideally below 7 for maximum resilience) then an optimum nutrition style multivitamin providing 10mcg of B12, 200mcg of folic acid and 20mg of B6, taken daily, is enough. But if your H score is raised you are going to need much higher levels, especially of B12, to bring it down. In real terms this means supplementing a specific formula designed to lower your homocysteine to normal levels. Read my report ‘How to Lower Your Homocysteine Level’.

These two simple prevention steps are the ones with the most positive research showing that, if you take action you get memory protection. Others, as laudable as they are – exercising more, not smoking, not being obese, not having diabetes or high blood pressure – don’t yet have evidence that those who do increase exercise, reverse obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure, get a measured improvement in memory and a reduction in brain shrinkage. In the chart below you can see clearly what I mean and why I recommend, above all else, you take these two preventative steps.

 

Risk FactorPrevalence (%)% of AD attributed to risk factor (PAR%)Ease of changingEvidence for effect
High homocysteine level, lowered by B vitamins 30 22% Yes Strong
Low fish & omega-3 intake 49 22% Yes Moderate
Low physical activity 34 22% Moderate Moderate
Low intake of polyphenol rich foods 75 up to 20% Yes Weak
Mid-life smoking 20 11% Moderate Weak
Mid-life hypertension 12 7% Moderate Moderate
Mid-life obesity 12 7% Moderate Weak
Depression 14 8% Moderate Weak
Diabetes and pre-diabetes 5 2% Moderate Weak
Low educational attainment 24 12% Difficult, long-term Weak

Now here’s the shocker. Despite this consistent and undeniable evidence your doctor is unlikely to tell you this. Nor is Public Health England (PHE), whom Professor David Smith and I have met and presented this evidence, nor the the UK’s National Institutes of Clinical Evidence (NICE) who advise GPs what to do and have also been given all the evidence; nor the Alzheimer’s Society, whom we have met on numerous occasions, nor Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) who ironically helped to fund the first study on B vitamins and homocysteine, for one simple unspoken reason – these prevention steps compete with potential drugs and big pharma’s influence on public health policy is just too strong.

As I write this the Lancet medical journal has just published a 60 page report on Alzheimer’s prevention, PHE & the Alzheimer’s Society have just published their report and neither even mention, let alone recommend omega-3 or homocysteine-lowering B vitamins. NICE are drafting theirs and I’ve heard they won't either. How do they get away with it? Well, they put all studies (or ones they select) giving B vitamins to people without memory problems or raised homocysteine, using very insensitive memory tests and conclude that there is no improvement in memory, which is a very different thing to protect against memory decline. Or they just ignore the evidence. It is, after all, hard to bite the hand that feeds you.

That is why you have to make up your own mind – whether to follow the evidence or follow the guidelines of our brainwashed institutions, protecting political and financial interests.As ever, your health is in your hands.

PS If you feel as incensed about this as I do let everyone you know over 50 to take Food for the Brain’s Cognitive Function test. It gives them clear prevention steps to follow. So far we reached over 250,000 people and, with your help, hope to reach half a million before the decade is over.

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

18. A. Oulhaj et al, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2016

 

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