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My husband’s grandmother died from Alzheimer’s and, by the time she passed, she was only a shadow of herself, with not a single memory of her family.
She was in her 70s when the family first noticed things were not quite right. But, sadly, dementia can strike at a much younger age…
A year ago now, one of my closest friends started her new year concerned because her husband seemed to be getting more and more forgetful. It had been little things that, at first, she could write off as just a bit of brain fog, like never knowing where he had left his keys, forgetting where he had parked or not stopping at the store when he had promised to pick up something for dinner.
Then, it got worse… much worse.
Within just a few months, they had received his diagnosis… early-onset dementia. Their world was turned upside down. And, seeing the pain they have both suffered and how their lives and the lives of their children will never be the same, has only confirmed for me that losing your memory is one of the scariest things possible.
With that in mind, I’m hoping that we can all start this New Year right by working to keep our precious memories for a long, long time with these three top nutrients shown to protect the aging brain…
#1 – Cocoa Flavanols
Cocoa flavanols have been linked to improved circulation and heart health, and preliminary research shows a possible connection to memory improvement as well. In fact, a study showed cocoa flavanols may improve the function of a specific part of your brain called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with age-related memory.
And, Italian researchers tested the effects of cocoa flavanols in 90 healthy 61- to 85-year-olds whose memories and thinking skills were in good shape for their ages. Participants drank a special brew of cocoa flavanols each day, ranging from a low amount of cocoa flavanols (48 milligrams a day) to a high amount (at 993 mg).
After eight weeks, people who consumed medium and high amounts of cocoa flavanols every day made significant improvements on tests that measured attention, executive function, and memory.
The amount of cocoa used in chocolate varies by manufacturer. And flavanols are often destroyed in the production of chocolate. Dark chocolate has more cocoa and more flavanols than milk chocolate. The amount in dark chocolate can range from 100 mg in 100 grams of chocolate (about 3 ounces) to 2,000 mg.
The best way of getting cocoa flavanols is through cocoa powder that is as natural as possible and has not been processed through the Dutch method, which reduces the content of flavanols. Such cocoa powder will be bitter, though.
#2 – Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have long been shown to contribute to good heart health and are now playing a role in cognitive health as well.
In fact, you may not know this but your brain is actually 60% fat, a large part of which is the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. So, you can imagine how important it is to your brain to replenish that vital nutrient as often as possible.
One study even showed that regularly taking an omega-3 DHA supplement resulted in significant improvements in memory and reaction times in healthy adults.
And, another study on mice found that omega-3 supplementation resulted in better object recognition memory, as well as spatial and localization memory (memories that can be consciously recalled such as facts and knowledge).
Foods rich in omega-3s include salmon, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds. You can also get the omega-3s you need from a high-quality supplement.
#3 – Phosphatidylserine and Phosphatidic Acid
Two pilot studies showed that a combination of phosphatidylserine and phosphatidic acid can help benefit memory, mood, and cognitive function in the elderly.
And, another study evaluated the effect of six months of PS supplementation on 494 elderly patients with cognitive impairment. Researchers found that the PS produced statistically significant improvements in behavioral and cognitive parameters after three months and again after six months. In addition, the phosphatidylserine was well-tolerated by subjects.
Good food sources of phosphatidylserine include:
- Soy lecithin
- Atlantic mackerel
- Atlantic herring
- White beans
Phosphatidylserine is also available in supplement form.
Phosphatidic acid is also available in supplement form and is usually derived from soy. Best to look for a phosphatidic acid sourced from non-GMO soy.
- Cocoa: a sweet treat for the brain? — Harvard University
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and the developing central nervous system (CNS) – Implications for dietary recommendations — Biochimie
- DHA Supplement Can Boost Brain Power — University Health News
- Eight nutrients to protect the aging brain — Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)
- Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration — Aging (Milan, Italy)