Guest post by Mansal Denton
There are hundreds of businesses pushing brain enhancing tools and supplements, but safety should always be the number one priority. Most compounds have little scientific evidence to back marketing claims, but there are some that have been analyzed over decades and have positive results.
The brain is the most important asset for a human; while improving this vital organ is appealing, the potential drawbacks are frightening. This is why any attempt to improve cognitive abilities should come with ample self-study and research.
This list of the 4 safest brain health compounds should give you a great place to start. As you will see, these compounds have been studied for decades and can probably provide the best opportunity for success while mitigating any risks.
Healthy fats are imperative for brain health and omega-3 fatty acids are the primary concern for most healthy and elderly people. The problem with vegetarian / alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids is that often they come in the form of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) instead of DHA and EPA (which are in fish).
Thousands of years of evolution has made humans more receptive to DHA and this is the type of fatty acid that we need the most for brain health benefits. Studies suggest DHA helps to improve memory in healthy individuals and is correlated with better verbal fluency skills in older humans.
Taking fish oil is a safe way to enhance your brain health because it comes from natural sources that our body is used to. Because it is a fatty acid, taking too much fish oil is usually not a problem within reason. People that consume fatty fish on a regular basis may not need to eat fish oil, but in most circumstances it is a great place to start.
Despite perceptions of creatine as being a supplement for athletes and bodybuilders, it is one of the best-studied methods to improve brain health. Humans generate creatine and consume it through animal products, but often not in optimal quantities. Vegans / vegetarians and elderly are particularly lacking in creatine and their brain health shows this.
Creatine is a molecule that helps improve cellular function by creating more ATP (energy). In the brain, this translates to more energy for “work”, which is usually memory retention or reasoning. Any student or high performance individual using their mental capacity can utilize additional creatine for their brain.
Youth who experience sleep deprivation can also see a boost in mental energy by taking creatine. Best of all, it has been researched for decades because of athletic use. The molecule was found in the 1800s and decades of scientific research has proven it has relatively few (if any) adverse effects. The negative creatine side effects might include cramping, but any complaint of kidney problems is myth.
Our evolution has also created a human need for vitamin D (also known as the sun vitamin). Sunlight helps to convert vitamin D in our skin, which is needed for proper function of our brain and body. Specifically, vitamin D can help improve memory and serotonin synthesis, which is an important neurotransmitter in our brain.
Because it is a common vitamin, it is also quite safe to supplement. In fact, many fish are filled with vitamin D and some fish oil products actually come with both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids (DHA / EPA). This is a great way to knock out two birds with one stone!
For memory there are few substances that are more important than choline. Both healthy adults and elderly individuals need more choline in their diets and it is optimal to provide supplementary choline as a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Foods that are rich in choline include eggs and organ meats, but most modern diets have too little of each!
The research on choline indicates there is much evidence to support use for brain health in the long and short term. Elderly people who are at risk for neurological degeneration and memory loss are often in need of choline. The best forms of choline are CDP choline and alpha GPC, which are both readily available.
It can seem risky and dangerous to enter the world of “nootropics” or cognitive enhancers. Many of these compounds are untested, which is why it is far better to use compounds that are well tested and proven.
Using these 4 simple compounds will help you to get the best results for your health. To determine the effects they are having on your memory, focus, and learning, use this cognitive tracking guide to determine changes over time.