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Supplements For A Healthier Brain

supplements-for-a-healthier-brain_300With some basic understanding of what underlies Alzheimer’s dementia from my previous article, I hope you are eager to learn about the specific foods and nutrients that can help reverse the Alzheimer’s disease process.

As an interesting contrast, you can read what minimal information is made public by the U.S. government regarding the use of nutrients for Alzheimer’s disease here. (Compare those meager bits of information with what a more extensive look at nutrition can really offer.)

Great Foods For Lowering The Risk Of Alzheimer’s

The best foods for the brain are those with the highest complete protein, antioxidant activity, mineral content and anti-inflammatory effect. To give you some ideas of what qualifies, consider these:

  • Wild salmon: Contains omega-3 oil fatty acids.
  • Cacao powder or dark chocolate (not chocolate bars with high sugar content): Contains beneficial polyphenols.
  • Matcha (Gyokuru green tea powder): Its EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) content is up to 10 times more than other green teas.
  • Acai berries or blueberries: Conveys remarkably strong antioxidant power.
  • Coffee beans: Regular coffee consumption has been shown in several studies to reduce dementia (from fresh ground beans, without artificial creams/sweeteners).
  • Grape juice, pomegranate juice: Includes the antioxidant resveratrol.
  • Apples: Include the antioxidant flavonoid, quercetin.
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and collard greens: Rich sources of beneficial phytonutrients.
  • Avocados, unsalted nuts and seeds: Sources of natural vitamin E and healthy fats.
  • Goji berries (wolfberries): Possess strong antioxidant properties.
  • Allum foods (garlic, onions, chives, leeks, shallots and scallions): Contain flavonoid antioxidants thought to inhibit the Alzheimer’s disease process.
  • Other foods that benefit the brain: Bananas, brewer’s yeast, broccoli,  brown rice, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, feta cheese, chicken, collard greens, eggs, flaxseed oil, legumes, oatmeal, oranges, peanut butter, peas, potatoes (not in excess), romaine lettuce, soybeans, spinach, tuna, turkey, wheat germ and plain yogurt.

Remember to eliminate the following as much as possible: alcohol, artificial food colorings, artificial sweeteners, soft drinks (especially colas) and high-sugar drinks, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, frostings, hydrogenated fats, junk sugars, white bread, and nicotine.

Nutritional Supplements To Combat Alzheimer’s

There are many nutrients that are useful for the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. A search of the peer-reviewed scientific literature shows evidence of these, but not all evidence is found there because of the bias in research away from natural (not patentable) nutrients and towards drug development.

What works for many people and is shared is often not yet put through clinical trials; those trials usually sum up the averaged results found in a wide range of study subjects. Great results enjoyed by a few people may not be reported due to the poor results of the rest of the group. I recommend you learn about the following nutrients and then read more about experienced patients who are using them.

Polyphenolic Herbs And Extracts

These antioxidant and anti-inflammatory extracts have been studied in rodents and found to be safe and effective. [1] They have been used in humans, but there are few clinical trials as of yet.

This category includes extracts from green tea (EGCG) [2], ginkgo biloba combined with ginseng [3], blueberries (anthocyanins) [4], grape seeds (resveratrol) [5], curcumin [6], marine algae (fucoxanthin) [7] [8], cat’s claw, bilberry and black currant.

Here is some further information on a few of these:

  • Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) extract: Contains antioxidant polyphenols and proanthocyanidins, This herb is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory [9], a potent enhancer of DNA repair in primary organ cultures of human skin [10]; and it has been found to have a high binding affinity to beta amyloid protein [11].
  • Bilberry and black currant extracts: Their phenolic compounds have been shown to greatly reduce brain beta amyloid protein and improve memory in Alzheimer’s mice [12].
  • Huperzine A (Huperzia serrate (moss extract): This is a potent inhibitor of acetylcholine esterase. Two double-blind clinical trials in China showed it to be safe and effective for the long-term treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. Found to be to be superior to Aricept, it has longer lasting effects and fewer side effects. Reports from an estimated 100,000 people treated suggest low toxicity for this herb. It decreases neuronal cell death caused by toxic levels of glutamate and is useful in strokes and epilepsy. Taking 200 micrograms twice daily is recommended.
  • Vinpocetine: It has been well-proven [13] to have cerebral blood-flow-enhancing and neuroprotective effects without adverse events. Several studies indicate it is useful to reduce memory loss and cognitive decline [14]. The recommended dose is 20 mg daily.

Amino acids

  • Acetyl-l-carnitine: Has many studies showing it helps reverse the disease process of Alzheimer’s dementia [15]. Its mechanisms of action are predominately antioxidant effects (much like polyphenols resveratrol and curcumin). For example, memory and cognitive scores in Alzheimer’s patients given 2,250 mg to 3,000 mg daily of Acetyl-l-carnitine improved 2.8 times better than placebo-treated subjects over 12 weeks [16]. Taking 500 mg to 1,000 mg three times daily is recommended.
  • L-glutamine and L-tyrosine: Taking 3-5 grams daily may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease progression by feeding brain tissue and helping reduce atherosclerosis.

Phosphatidyl Serine And Healthy Oils

  • Phosphatidyl serine (PS): Taking 100 mg three times daily or 300 mg daily has been repeatedly shown in studies [17] [18] [19] [20] to improve memory in aging patients with memory complaints and early cognitive decline, although there are a few that show no significant improvement. [21] In a multi-university study, subjects who took PS achieved a 30 percent improvement in cognitive function with better learning, memory and recall of numbers, names and faces. Another study showed that people using PS supplementation had a 33 percent improvement in learning and remembering written information compared to the placebo control group” [22]. PS also works synergistically with vitamin B12 supplementation.
  • Phosphatidyl choline (lecithin): Taking 1-2 tablespoons daily may be helpful. But it has only been shown to improve cognitive function in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and there is a therapeutic window dose above which the beneficial effects of lecithin treatment are lost.
  • Omega-3 fats (krill oil and/or flaxseed oil): The recommended dose is 1-3 tablespoons a day. Omega 3 fats (DHA, EPA) are the building blocks of nerve tissue.


  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Important for acetylcholine metabolism and release from the presynaptic neuron. Deficiency of thiamine has been shown to increase β-amyloid plaque accumulation of in many studies. Dosing of 3 to 8 grams daily of oral thiamine had a mildly beneficial effect in Alzheimer’s in a 1993 study” [23], although a later study in 1996 found similarly good effects with a daily dose of just 100 mg thiamine for 12 weeks” [24].
  • Vitamins B6, B12 and folate: Help reduce homocysteine, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia. Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can ease Alzheimer’s symptoms, and one of four people aged 60-70 and about 40 percent of those over age 80 are deficient in Vitamin B12, largely from poor absorption. Vitamin B12 works synergistically with phosphatidyl serine supplementation.
  • Vitamin D3: a recent meta-analysis” [25] reveals that low vitamin D levels are associated with development of poor memory and other cognitive dysfunction. Vitamin D repletion in these subjects improved brain executive functions, while it showed no difference with control groups. A study” [26] reported this year reports that vitamin D restores suppressed synaptic transmission when given to lab animals with Alzheimer’s.
  • Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol with mixed tocopherols): Taking 800 IU twice daily for up to two years is safe and has been reported to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, probably because it is synergistic” [27] with coenzyme Q10, an endogenous compound that decreases in your body as you age.

Other Supplements

Coenzyme Q10: Taking 200 mg daily has been shown to boost brain mitochondrial activity and provide a protective effect in rodent nerve tissue, especially when taken together with vitamin E” [28]. In 2011, a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported that coenzyme Q10 decreased amyloid-beta pathology and improved behavioral and cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s animals (transgenic mouse model). [29]

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH): Taking 10 mg a day, 30 minutes before breakfast is recommended. A small double-blind study [30] found no evidence of progressive cognitive deterioration and significantly higher cognitive performance scores among Alzheimer’s patients who took 10 mg daily for six months compared with those treated with placebo.

Homeopathic remedies: These are generally safe and can be effective if directed by an experienced homeopathic physician. For several reasons these remedies have been omitted unfairly from mainstream medicine [31], and I find no clinical trials using homeopathy for Alzheimer’s dementia in peer-reviewed scientific literature. The Heel Corporation of Germany reported [32] at the November 2011 neuroscience convention in Washington, D.C., that their internal studies of a multi-target homeopathic medication successfully altered abnormal gene expression in rodents (and in vitro) with no negative side effects. It reduced beta-amyloid protein production, caused neurons to grow faster and longer, and improved synaptic function compared to controls. They say, “It (was)… at least as effective as the Gold Standard [Aricept] at all tested behavioral models.”

I’ll share with you the benefits of brain exercises in my concluding article of this series in two weeks.

In my next article I will proceed to a discussion on the other common brain illness of aging people: Parkinson’s disease.

To feeling good for health,

Michael Cutler, M.D.

Easy Health Options

[1] Ramassamy C. Emerging role of polyphenolic compounds in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases: a review of their intracellular targets. Eur J Pharmacol. 2006 Sep 1;545(1):51-64.

[2] Mandel S, Weinreb O, Amit T, Youdim MB. Cell signaling pathways in the neuroprotective actions of the green tea polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate: implications for neurodegenerative diseases. J Neurochem. 2004 Mar;88(6):1555-69.

[3] Wesnes KA, Ward T, McGinty A, Petrini O.The memory enhancing effects of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax ginseng combination in healthy middle-aged volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 Nov;152(4):353-61.

[4] Brewer GJ, Torricelli JR, Lindsey AL, Kunz EZ, Neuman A, Fisher DR, Joseph JA. Age-related toxicity of amyloid-beta associated with increased pERK and pCREB in primary hippocampal neurons: reversal by blueberry extract. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Oct;21(10):991-8.

[5] Wang J, Tang C, Ferruzzi MG, et al. Role of standardized grape polyphenol preparation as a novel treatment to improve synaptic plasticity through attenuation of features of metabolic syndrome in a mouse model.  Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Aug 21.

[6] Ramassamy C. Emerging role of polyphenolic compounds in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases: a review of their intracellular targets. Eur J Pharmacol. 2006 Sep 1;545(1):51-64.

[7] Peng J, Yuan JP, Wu CF, Wang JH. Fucoxanthin, a marine carotenoid present in brown seaweeds and diatoms: metabolism and bioactivities relevant to human health.  Mar Drugs. 2011;9(10):1806-28.

[8] Pangestuti R, Vo TS, Ngo DH, Kim SK. Fucoxanthin Ameliorates Inflammation and Oxidative Reponses in Microglia. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Apr 12. This study found that fucoxanthin ameliorates oxidative stress and inflammation in amyloid-β42 (Aβ42)-induced BV2 microglia cells and thereby may protect neuronal cells from neurotoxic mediators.

[9] Sandoval M, Okuhama NN, Zhang XJ, Condezo LA, Lao J, Angeles’ FM, Musah RA, Bobrowski P, Miller MJ.

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities of cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis) are independent of their alkaloid content. Phytomedicine. 2002 May;9(4):325-37.

[10] Mammone T, Akesson C, Gan D, Giampapa V, Pero RW. A water soluble extract from Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s Claw) is a potent enhancer of DNA repair in primary organ cultures of human skin. Phytother Res. 2006 Mar;20(3):178-83.

[11] Frackowiak T, Baczek T, Roman K, Zbikowska B, Gleńsk M, Fecka I, Cisowski W. Binding of an oxindole alkaloid from Uncaria tomentosa to amyloid protein (Abeta1-40). Z Naturforsch C. 2006 Nov-Dec;61(11-12):821-6.

[12] Vepsäläinen S, Koivisto H, Pekkarinen E, et al. Anthocyanin-enriched bilberry and blackcurrant extracts modulate amyloid precursor protein processing and alleviate behavioral abnormalities in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 Jan;24(1):360-70.

[13] Patyar S, Prakash A, Modi M, Medhi B. Role of vinpocetine in cerebrovascular diseases. Pharmacol Rep. 2011;63(3):618-28.

[14] Valikovics A, Csányi A, Németh L. [Study of the effects of vinpocetin on cognitive functions]. [Article in Hungarian].  Ideggyogy Sz. 2012 Mar 30;65(3-4):115-20.

[15] Mancuso C, Bates TE, Butterfield DA, Calafato S, Cornelius C, De Lorenzo A, Dinkova Kostova AT, Calabrese V. Natural antioxidants in Alzheimer’s disease. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2007 Dec;16(12):1921-31.

[16] Gavrilova SI, Kalyn IaB, Kolykhalov IV, Roshchina IF, Selezneva ND.  [Acetyl-L-carnitine (carnicetine) in the treatment of early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia]. [Article in Russian] Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 2011;111(9):16-22.

[17] Vakhapova V, Cohen T, Richter Y, Herzog Y, Korczyn AD. Phosphatidylserine containing omega-3 fatty acids may improve memory abilities in non-demented elderly with memory complaints: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2010;29(5):467-74.

[18] Crook TH, Tinklenberg J, Yesavage J, Petrie W, Nunzi MG, Massari DC. Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology. 1991 May;41(5):644-9.

[19] Cenacchi T, Bertoldin T, Farina C, Fiori MG, Crepaldi G. Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration. Aging (Milano). 1993 Apr;5(2):123-33.

[20] Crook T, Petrie W, Wells C, Massari DC. Effects of phosphatidylserine in Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacol Bull. 1992;28(1):61-6.

[21] Jorissen BL, Brouns F, Van Boxtel MP, Ponds RW, Verhey FR, Jolles J, Riedel WJ. The influence of soy-derived phosphatidylserine on cognition in age-associated memory impairment. Nutr Neurosci. 2001;4(2):121-34.

[22] No reference available

[23] Meador K, Loring D, Nichols M, Zamrini E, Rivner M, Posas H, Thompson E, Moore E. Preliminary findings of high-dose thiamine in dementia of Alzheimer’s type. J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 1993 Oct-Dec;6(4):222-9.

[24] Mimori Y, Katsuoka H, Nakamura S. Thiamine therapy in Alzheimer’s disease. Metab Brain Dis. 1996 Mar;11(1):89-94.

[25] Annweiler C, Montero-Odasso M, Llewellyn DJ, Richard-Devantoy S, Duque G, Beauchet O. Meta-Analysis of Memory and Executive Dysfunctions in Relation to Vitamin D.  J Alzheimers Dis. 2013 Jan 1;37(1):147-171.

[26] Taghizadeh M, Talaei SA, Djazayeri A, Salami M.Vitamin D supplementation restores suppressed synaptic plasticity in Alzheimer’s disease. Nutr Neurosci. 2013 Jul 23.

[27] McDonald SR, Sohal RS, Forster MJ. Concurrent administration of coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol improves learning in aged mice. Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 Mar 15;38(6):729-36.

[28] McDonald SR, Sohal RS, Forster MJ. Concurrent administration of coenzyme Q10 and alpha-tocopherol improves learning in aged mice. Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 Mar 15;38(6):729-36.

[29] Dumont M, Kipiani K, Yu F, Wille E, Katz M, Calingasan NY, Gouras GK, Lin MT, Beal MF. Coenzyme Q10 decreases amyloid pathology and improves behavior in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2011;27(1):211-23.

[30] Demarin V, Podobnik SS, Storga-Tomic D, Kay G. Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease with stabilized oral nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide: a randomized, double-blind study.  Drugs Exp Clin Res. 2004;30(1):27-33.

[31] Merrell WC, Shalts E. Homeopathy. Med Clin North Am. 2002 Jan;86(1):47-62.



Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler

is a graduate of Brigham Young University, Tulane Medical School and Natividad Medical Center Family Practice Residency in Salinas, Calif. Dr. Cutler is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder and editor of Easy Health Options™ newsletter — a leading health advisory service on natural healing therapies and nutrients.