Looking into the best Nootropic supplements for an aging brain?
We all know what happens to our body as age but what is happening as the brain ages? Our brain begins to slowly and naturally age after puberty. Age related cognitive decline may begin as early as our 20’s and 30’s.
As we get older, our neurons become less responsive. Brain molecules and cerebral circulation are all affected and this can cause damage to brain cells and even their death.
Our brain volume even shrinks which is known as brain atrophy which has been associated with memory loss and a decline in mental sharpness.
There are many factors involved as the brain ages including stress, alcohol, dietary choices, sleeping patterns, toxins, lack of exercise and nutrients, all these factors lead to cellular and tissue damage, which is the root of all aging.
Mental decline is unfortunately inevitable and these aging factors also raise the risk of many disorders that affect the brain such as Dementia.
The number of people living with Alzheimer’s is growing at an incredibly rate. It is estimated that one in six people over the age of 80 has Dementia and after the age of 65, the risk of developing it doubles every five years. Early onset of Alzheimer’s can even occur as early as our 40’s.
While we can easily notice and therefore decide to take action to improve our aging body, our aging brain is much less detectable and taking action to slow down or even reverse aging becomes less likely until it’s too late.
Brain pills are gaining more and more popularity for addressing the aging brain and brain health. Giving the brain what it needs to thrive by preventing or even reversing damage to the neurons, are all possible with many Nootropics regardless of your age.
Nootropics are even currently being investigated as potential treatments for many disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other disorders that can affect cognitive capacity.
So what happens to our brain as we age and which Nootropics are recommended to be the best for anti-aging and brain health?
Brain Aging and Free Radicals
Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism. They are formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. As we age, it becomes harder for the body to fight the effects of free radicals.
When higher levels of free radicals occur, they can be damaging to cells and even cause cell death. This contributes to aging and is associated with many diseases including certain forms of cancer.
This mostly occurs due to oxidative stress, which is the imbalance between free radical production and the body’s ability to counteract their negative effects.
The brain is where most free radicals are found, since they are produced when the brain’s main energy source is created. Since this organ produces huge amounts of energy to fuel the entire body, it becomes very important to reduce free radicals.
Synapse signaling systems in the brain are particularly susceptible to increases in oxidative stress. Synapses are needed for neurons to communicate with each other. Free radical build up, interferes with the normal activity of the neurons and slowly causes cognitive decline.
There are over 10,000 interactions in our brain cells occurring between free radicals and DNA every single day. Evidence has shown that free radical damage is one of the major causes of functional decline in aged brains.
Although free radicals aren’t the only cause of cognitive decline, they are believed to play a major role in cognitive dysfunction, also known as brain fog. This is the loss of reasoning, memory and other neurological functions that can affect your daily quality of life.
The best way to reduce or prevent free radicals are by taking anti-oxidants. This may inhibit or reverse the damage to cells and promote better cognitive function.
Here is a list of the top recommended anti-oxidants and Nootropic supplements that may additionally act as anti-oxidants, to defend against free radicals and oxidative damage.
Type: Anti-Oxidant Supplement
Used For: Anti-Aging, Brain Health, General Health
Alpha Lipoic Acid Summary
Alpha Lipoic Acid (also known as ALA) is a fatty acid that is naturally found in all human cells. Vital for many bodily functions, it’s especially important for it’s role in converting glucose (blood sugar) into cellular energy which can result in improving mental energy levels and cognitive functions.
It is also considered an extremely powerful and unique anti-oxidant. It has the ability to neutralize and remove free radicals from the body and also utilize Vitamins C and E, making them more effective at removing toxins and poisons. In addition, it intensifies the effects of CoQ10 and glutathione, which are both believed to fight against aging and disease.
2. Coenzyme Q10
Type: Energy Supplement
Used For: Anti-Aging, Heart Health, Energy, Exercise Performance, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Migraines, Immune Booster
Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10) is considered to act as a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect cells from free radical damage and plays a crucial role in generating energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
This supplement is most commonly used to support heart health, cognitive function and metabolic processes. Natural CoQ10 levels tend to decline as we age which is why it is used as a longevity promoting supplement.
Type: Anti-Oxidant Supplement
Used For: Brain Health, Anti-Aging, Memory, Focus, ADHD, Physical Performance, Symptoms of Menopause, Erectile Function, Diabetes, Skin Health
Pine Bark Extract Summary
Pine Bark Extract (also known as Pinus pinaster, Flavangenol or Pycnogenol which is a registered pharmaceutical trademark) is popularly used as a dietary supplement in many countries to promote improvements in general health and for its believed anti-aging benefits.
Thought to strengthen the immune system and enhance circulation, it is also believed to have strong anti-oxidant properties that may hinder signs of aging.
Pine Bark Extract is used therapeutically for a variety of conditions including circulatory problems, symptoms of menopause, erectile dysfunction, asthma, allergies and more. It is also used for its believed positive effects on cognitive functions including attention, executive functions and even greater contentment.
Type: Cholinergic Supplement
Used For: Brain Health, Age-related Cognitive Decline, Memory, Learning Capacity, Focus, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia
Centrophenoxine (also known as Lucidril or Meclofenoxate) has been researched for over 50 years. It was designed as an enhanced version DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol) supplement thought to have better absorption and increased transportation across the blood-brain barrier.
DMAE is known as a cognitive enhancer and associated with many positive cognitive effects including greater mental clarity, memory, enhanced learning, better problem solving skills and a boost in the ability to focus.
Centrophenoxine is believed to carry all the benefits of DMAE and more. Additionally, it is also thought to play a big role in protecting the brain from toxins and may even reduce waste build-up in brain cells, indication brain anti-oxidant effects that may assist in combating age-related cognitive decline.
Type: Adaptogen/Natural Nootropic
Used For: Stress Relief, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Cognitive Function, Mood Enhancement, Anti-Aging, Arthritis, Inflammation
Ashwagandha (also called Indian Ginseng or Withania somnifera herb) was used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditional medicine to rejuvenate the body, improving sexual desire in both women and men, promoting longevity and restoring youthfulness and sense of well-being.
It contains two active compounds including glutathione and withanolides which are powerful anti-oxidants. In trials, it has demonstrated numerous healing properties and may work to fight against diseases, restore energy and promote healthy sleeping patterns.
A very popularly used natural Nootropic, it is also believed to have exceptional effects as a calming agent, reducing physical and psychological stress that may help to improve thinking and cognition.
Type: Adaptogen/Herbal Nootropic
Used For: Memory, Concentration, Alertness, Focus, Increasing Circulation in the Brain, Anti-Aging, Mental Fatigue, Mental Clarity, ADHD, Brain Support, Depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Ginkgo Biloba Summary
Ginkgo Biloba is derived from the Ginkgo Tree. It is one of the most popular and well known natural supplements, most commonly used as an anti-oxidant and for it’s positive Nootropic effects that may improve mental clarity, memory, focus and mental energy.
It contains proanthocanidins and flavonoids which give it it’s antioxidant power, helping to protect the body from free radicals that can damage tissues and organs. It is also well known to improve blood flow and brain functioning.
Used For: Supporting Neuroprotection, Focus, Mental Performance, Mood, Relaxation, Anxiety, Depression, Sleep and more
L-Theanine (gamma-glutamylethylamide) is derived from amino acids found in green tea. A unique Nootropic, it has shown to have relaxing effects, while heightening concentration without causing drowsiness. It is known as an excellent Nootropic for it’s positive effects on mental clarity, stress, focus, mood and quality of sleep.
It is thought to work by balancing brain chemistry, limiting the neurochemicals that reduce mental clarity and cause our reaction to stress and increase the levels of several neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that are responsible for regulating pleasure, attention, anxiety and cognition.
Type: Energy Supplement
Used For: Anti-Aging, Brain Health, Heart Health, Energy, Focus, Mood, Depression, Arthritis and more.
Creatine is an organic acid found naturally in all humans and vertebrates. It is used by the cells to facilitate energy metabolism, converting into phosphocreatine which can then lead to further converting into the body’s primary energy currency ATP (adenosine triphosphate). All cells in the body run on the energy supplied by ATP, especially muscles and brain cells.
Most notably used by bodybuilders and athletes due to the body’s increase in demand for this nutrient for physical strength, it is also known to improve the energy supply to brain cells and boost the metabolic production of ATP which may lead to healthier neurons and enhanced mental performance.
Creatine appears to have neuroprotective properties. Increased ATP stores in the brain help to boost membrane integrity and protect neurons from damage caused by toxins. Deficiencies are common in vegetarians, due it being found in high amounts in foods such as red meat.
Neurotransmitters and the Aging Brain
Neurotransmitters, are chemical messengers in the brain that are used to communicate with other neurons across the synapses. Whether you are learning a new task, making a decision or moving your body, the brain relies on the efficient release of these neurotransmitters to execute the action. They are responsible for all our thought processes, memory functions, moods, sleep and much more. As we age, the levels of certain important neurotransmitters decline.
Acetylcholine & Brain Aging
The first and one of the most important chemical messengers to decline with age is Acetylcholine (ACh). It used in various brain regions such as the basal ganglia, cortex and hypothalamus and plays a major role in proper memory function, ability to learn and motor control.
Low levels of this neurotransmitter are thought to be one of the significant causes of Alzheimer’s disease and many drugs that are used in the treatment, increase Acetylcholine at the synapse.
Maintaining adequate levels of this brain chemical is critical for all current memory function, learning capacity and may also help keep your mind sharp as you age.
Some supplements that are recommended to maintain Acetylcholine are cholinergics. Choline is needed to produce Acetylcholine in the brain. Although we can get choline from certain foods we consume, it is believed that due to poor diet, a large percentage of the population is deficient.
Other supplements for Acetylcholine maintenance to consider in the fight against age-related chemical decline are natural Nootropic supplements such as Vinpocetine and Huperzine A. These also promote to improve other cognitive functions and brain health.
Finally, most of the supplements in the Racetam family influence ACh in some way and act on cholinergic pathways. Taken in combination with choline supplementation to increase their benefit, some Racetams such as Piracetam or Aniracetam are excellent choices to maintain ACh which may boost learning, memory capacity and impressively, other cognitive functions.
Dopamine & Brain Aging
The next important neurotransmitter known to peak in adolescence and decline with age is Dopamine. It is released in the frontal lobe of the brain and helps to regulate our mood, emotional responses, motor control, movement and motivation. It is referred to as the pleasure chemical messenger and influences our happiness.
When there is a deficiency in the level of this neurotransmitter, you may experience increased fatigue, mood swings, addictive behavior, a lack of motivation, slower response time, impaired movement and lack of general vitality.
In addition, lower levels of Dopamine may affect cognitive abilities including working memory, attention span, problem-solving skills and even the ability to multi-task.
Although medical professionals are hesitant to prescribe medications that quickly raise Dopamine levels in the brain due to potential addiction, there are supplements that are used as natural Dopamine enhancers to boost these levels.
They work to raise the availability of Dopamine precursors and cofactors such as tyrosine and phenylalanine since orally administering Dopamine itself is considered not effective.
A supplement such as L-Tyrosine is considered an effective way to naturally boost Dopamine levels. Tyrosine is an amino acid that converts into L-Dopa, the precursor to Dopamine. It is commonly used for its effects on increasing energy levels, motivation, mental clarity and enhancing mood.
Phenylalanine is also used for the same purpose, however, it has an additional step in the conversion of L-Dopa, which means it stays in the bloodstream longer. This may raise the chance of overdose or negative side effects.
In addition, some users prefer Mucuna pruriens, a natural source of direct L-Dopa. This supplement works faster in the conversion to Dopamine and is used for various purposes such as boosting testosterone, raising libido, improving response to stress, enhancing mood, motivation and focus.
Finally, some users may prefer CDP-Choline. This is a supplement that is grouped with cholinergics and is primarily used to potentiate an increase in focus, clarity and memory. It is also suggested in studies to increase Dopamine receptor densities in the brain, encouraging its release.
Serotonin & Brain Aging
Finally, levels of Serotonin decline with age. Thought to be the most important neurotransmitter, it is used in the brain to help regulate anxiety, mood and happiness.
A variety of mood issues are associated with Serotonin levels such as irritability, agitation, obsessiveness and aggression. Serotonin is also thought to affect sleeping patterns, appetite, social behavior, memory and learning.
Serotonin is produced from the breakdown of an amino acid called Tryptophan, which then converts to 5HTP. Both are precursors to Serotonin.
Imbalances of Serotonin levels in the bloodstream have been associated with symptoms of depression. However, Serotonin found in the body or when ingested, cannot cross the blood-brain-barrier and needs to be produced within the brain.
Supplements such as 5-HTP are commonly used as a serotonergic. Thought to help raise Serotonin levels and have positive effects on mood, anxiety and sleep, they have also proven to be just as effective as certain medications for anxiety and depression. However, too much Serotonin can cause harm and interact with other supplements and prescribed medications. Speak to your doctor first before taking
Another supplement that may help raise Serotonin levels is L-Tryptophan. Believed to help with mild depression and insomnia, it is a two-step precursor to Serotonin production in the body and thought to be milder than 5-HTP. It is reported to encourage more of this amino acids ability to cross the blood-brain barrier when in combination with exercise.
Brain Plasticity and Age
Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to modify connections and adapt as a result of changes in the body and new experiences, learning and memory formation. It is the brain re-wiring itself.
Plasticity initially occurs to organize the brain in the beginning of our life. It also occurs when compensation is needed due to brain injuries that cause loss of functions. Throughout adulthood, plasticity occurs whenever we memorize or learn something new.
Throughout our life, the brain has the ability to change and re-organize itself. It forms new neural connections, strengthens or weakens others and even destroys connections that aren’t active anymore.
As we age, our cells accumulate waste and wear out. Chemical messages are lost and the ability to form new connections declines. This affects our ability to learn and to remember and is otherwise known as age related cognitive decline.
Conventionally, it was believed that aging was bad news for brains. It was once thought by neuroscientists, that we could not form new neurons. However, through extensive research on plasticity, it is now known that new neurons and connections can be formed later in life with mental activity, exercise and supplementation.
Acetylcholine (ACh), is a brain chemical responsible for memory, learning and promotion of synaptic plasticity. With higher levels of this neurotransmitter, it becomes easier for the brain to form new connections between the neurons. This can result in improvements in memory recall, concentration and overall cognitive function.
Another Nootropic that boost the production and/or release of Acetylcholine is Noopept. It is suggested, that this supplement improves overall synapse plasticity which can result in forming more connections that may additionally improve other cognitive functions such as problem solving skills and reasoning.
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