10 Brain health supplements that can transform your cognitive function

Maintaining optimal brain health is crucial as it impacts every aspect of daily life, from learning and memory to emotional regulation and decision-making. As we age, nurturing our cognitive abilities becomes even more significant. 

One effective way to support mental acuity is through dietary supplements. These targeted nutrients can bolster brain function, enhance memory, and support overall mental wellness.

Several factors contribute to expanding the brain supplements market, including enhanced research and development efforts in herbal medicines, a growing number of companies producing brain health supplements, and a rising incidence of brain-related conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and brain cancer [1].

In the following sections, we will explore ten effective brain health supplements, outlining their benefits, recommended dosages, and any considerations to keep in mind to help you make informed decisions about enhancing your cognitive function.

Can supplements improve cognitive function?

Supplements can improve cognitive function. Certain nutrients included in brain health supplements can enhance mental clarity, memory, and overall brain health. 

The role of diet in boosting cognitive function cannot be overstated. Adding specific supplements can provide necessary nutrients that help maintain and enhance brain health [2]. 

Here are ten brain health supplements that have garnered attention for their potential cognitive benefits:

1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), play a crucial role in brain operations and have demonstrated abilities to improve and safeguard the brain [3], [4].

These essential micronutrients influence brain neurotransmitters and functions, with DHA constituting the primary omega-3 found in the brain. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to enhancements in learning, memory, cognitive health, and cerebral blood flow.

Omega-3 fatty acids are key to building brain and nerve cells, making them fundamental for learning and memory. Omega-3s are also associated with better mood regulation and can help protect against age-related cognitive decline.

Here are some key points about omega-3s as a brain health supplement:

  • You can get these fatty acids from fish oil, krill oil, and algae supplements, all rich in EPA and DHA.
  • They support memory, help manage mood, and protect brain function as you age.
  • Typically, 1,000-2,000 mg daily is advised.
  • They are generally mild but can include a fishy aftertaste and digestive upset.

Incorporating omega-3 supplements into your diet can be a smart move for long-term brain health and cognitive function.

2. B vitamins (B6, B9, B12)

B vitamins, specifically B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are vital for optimal brain health. These vitamins play critical roles in energy production and the synthesis of crucial neurotransmitters that regulate mental clarity and mood.

Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of B vitamins like B6, B9, and B12:

  • These vitamins aid in managing homocysteine levels, high levels of which are associated with cognitive decline [5].
  • Available as individual supplements or part of a B-complex vitamin.
  • They support nerve function, enhance brain performance, and contribute to the repair of brain cells.
  • Varies by specific vitamins; generally included in a balanced dosage within B-complex supplements.
  • Typically well-tolerated, although high doses may lead to nervousness, insomnia, or a risk of nerve damage.

Regular intake of these B vitamins can help keep your mind sharp and your nerves functioning properly.

b vitamins
Photograph: Zinkevych_D/Envato

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is often celebrated for its role in bone health, but it’s equally important for the brain.

Research conducted by Tufts University discovered that elevated levels of vitamin D in brain tissue correlated with improved cognitive performance, particularly enhanced memory and a reduced rate of cognitive deterioration [6].

This vitamin helps maintain healthy brain function and has been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline. It also supports the immune system, which can impact brain health indirectly.

Key details about Vitamin D as a brain health supplement include:

  • While sunlight is a natural source, supplements are beneficial for those with limited sun exposure.
  • Enhances brain function and mood and supports the immune system.
  • Typically, 800-2,000 IU daily, adjusted based on individual blood levels.
  • Excess intake can lead to calcium build-up in the blood, potentially causing harm.

Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels can be a simple yet effective strategy for supporting overall brain health.

4. Ginkgo biloba

A plant extract, Ginkgo biloba has long been valued for its ability to enhance cognitive function. It works primarily by improving blood flow to the brain, which can help boost focus and memory.

Additionally, it acts as an antioxidant, protecting the brain from damage due to aging and environmental stressors [7].

Key aspects of Ginkgo biloba include:

  • Improves blood circulation in the brain and enhances memory and focus.
  • Typically, 120-240 mg per day, divided into several doses.
  • May cause headaches, stomach upset, or increase the risk of bleeding, especially at higher doses.

Using ginkgo biloba can be a smart choice for those looking to support their mental clarity and cognitive resilience.

5. Acetyl-L-carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) has been demonstrated to contribute to energy production in the brain and serves as a precursor for acetylcholine, our main neurotransmitter [8]. It also supports the maintenance of normal neurotransmitter levels, promoting regular cognitive and memory functions.

It is a substance that protects the brain, especially as we age, and is essential for the synthesis of energy. It is particularly intriguing to elderly folks because of its reputation for improving memory and lowering mental tiredness.

Consider these points about acetyl-L-carnitine:

  • Boosts energy levels in brain cells, supports memory and may help alleviate mood disorders.
  • Recommended intake ranges from 600 to 2,500 mg daily, depending on individual needs and health goals.
  • Usually well-tolerated, though some may experience minor gastrointestinal discomfort.

Adding acetyl-L-carnitine to your daily routine could be beneficial if you’re looking to maintain mental sharpness and vitality.

6. Curcumin

Curcumin is the active component of turmeric and is celebrated for its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It helps maintain cognitive function by clearing amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and combating oxidative stress.

Key insights into curcumin include:

  • Supports brain health by promoting a healthy inflammatory response and protecting against oxidative damage.
  • Effective dosages typically range from 500 to 2,000 mg daily. Taking it with piperine, found in black pepper, can significantly enhance absorption.
  • Generally safe; however, high doses may lead to digestive discomfort.

For those looking to protect their brain health, incorporating curcumin could provide substantial benefits, particularly with regard to memory and overall cognitive function [9].

7. Resveratrol

Resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, is a powerful antioxidant known for its neuroprotective properties. It supports brain health by helping to maintain the integrity of brain cells and reducing the impact of aging on cognitive functions.

Here are some quick facts about resveratrol:

  • Protects brain cells from damage and may improve memory and cognitive function.
  • Typically, 100-500 mg per day is recommended to see potential benefits.
  • Resveratrol is generally well-tolerated, but it can interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding.

For those interested in natural ways to support brain health, Resveratrol offers a promising option, especially for enhancing memory and protecting the brain from age-related declines.

8. Caffeine

A familiar stimulant found in coffee, tea, and many energy drinks. It boosts your central nervous system, making you feel more alert and awake. Beyond just waking you up, caffeine can enhance focus and concentration.

Here’s what you should know about caffeine:

  • Increases alertness, sharpens concentration, and may improve reaction times.
  • A moderate intake, about 100-400 mg per day (equivalent to 1-4 cups of coffee), is considered safe for most adults.
  • Overconsumption can lead to nervousness, insomnia, nausea, and an increased heart rate [10].

For those looking to stay sharp and energized, moderate caffeine consumption can be an effective way to enhance cognitive function throughout the day.

9. Phosphatidylserine 

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity and fluidity of cell membranes, particularly in the brain. This compound is essential for cognitive function and is known for its ability to enhance memory and concentration.

Here’s what you need to know about phosphatidylserine:

  • Supports brain health, improves memory, enhances cognitive capacity, and may help reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Suggested intake ranges from 100 to 300 mg per day.
  • Phosphatidylserine is generally well-tolerated, although some people may experience stomach upset or insomnia at higher doses.

Regular supplementation with phosphatidylserine can be a strategic move for those aiming to enhance cognitive functions and maintain mental acuity.

10 Lion’s mane mushroom

Lion’s Mane Mushroom is gaining popularity for its unique ability to stimulate the growth of brain cells. This natural supplement is revered not only for its potential to enhance cognitive function but also for its nerve-regenerative properties.

Here’s what you should consider about lion’s mane mushroom:

  • Promotes nerve growth factor, supports mental clarity, and may improve memory.
  • Typically, 500 to 3,000 mg daily, depending on the form and concentration of the extract.
  • Generally well-tolerated; rare reports of skin rash or difficulty breathing in sensitive individuals.

For those looking to support brain health naturally, lion’s mane mushroom offers promising benefits, particularly in enhancing mental focus and neurological health [11].

What is a healthy lifestyle for the brain?

Maintaining a healthy brain involves more than just mental exercises; it encompasses a variety of lifestyle choices (and even the use of brain health supplements) that enhance overall cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurological decline.

Here’s a closer look at several key components that contribute to a brain-healthy lifestyle:

1. Balanced nutrition

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provides essential nutrients that support brain health. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins such as B, C, and E are particularly beneficial.

Incorporating foods like blueberries, salmon, and nuts can help fight inflammation and provide the brain with the building blocks it needs for repairing and maintaining healthy cells.

2. Regular physical activity

Exercise is as important for your brain as it is for your body. Regular physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which helps to nourish cells with oxygen and nutrients while removing waste products.

Activities like brisk walking, swimming, and cycling can boost brain function and promote the growth of new neuronal connections.

3. Adequate sleep

Quality sleep is critical for cognitive health. During sleep, the brain clears out toxins, consolidates memories, and processes information.

Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to ensure the brain has sufficient time to perform these vital functions.

adequate sleep
Photograph: Prostock-studio/Envato

4. Mental stimulation

Keeping the brain active and engaged prevents cognitive decline and builds cognitive reserve. Engage in activities that challenge the brain, such as puzzles, reading, playing musical instruments, or learning new skills.

These activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and can even help the brain generate new cells.

5. Stress management

Chronic stress can damage brain cells and impact memory and learning. Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and its harmful effects on the brain.

6. Social interaction

Regular interaction with friends and family can ward off brain health issues like depression and stress, which affect cognitive function. Social activities that involve communication and engagement can help keep the mind sharp and responsive.

By integrating these practices into daily life, you can create a robust foundation for maintaining brain health and enhancing cognitive function as you age.

In closing

Enhancing your cognitive function isn’t just about choosing the right brain health supplements; it involves a comprehensive approach that includes dietary choices, physical activity, adequate rest, and mental exercises.

The synergy between these elements can significantly boost your brain power and protect against cognitive decline.

While supplements can provide essential nutrients and support brain health, they are most effective when used with a healthy lifestyle. Always consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement to ensure it aligns with your specific health needs and conditions.

FAQs

What are the best brain health supplements for memory improvement?

Omega-3 fatty acids and Ginkgo Biloba are highly recommended. They support memory retention and enhance blood circulation in the brain.

Can brain health supplements reduce the risk of cognitive decline?

Yes, supplements like curcumin and vitamin D can help protect against cognitive decline. They provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits to support brain function.

How long does it take to notice the effects of brain health supplements?

The effects can vary, but typically, it might take a few weeks to notice improvements. Consistency and a healthy lifestyle are key to best results.

Can I take multiple brain health supplements together?

Yes, many people combine supplements like vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. However, consult with a healthcare provider to ensure compatibility and safety.

[1] https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/brain-health-supplements-market 
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/ 
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9641984/ 
[4] https://news.uthscsa.edu/study-links-omega-3s-to-improved-brain-structure-cognition-at-midlife/ 
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1395322/ 
[6] https://fortune.com/well/2023/12/25/vitamin-d-may-improve-brain-function-and-strengthen-memory-how-much-you-need-each-day/ 
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6694352/ 
[8] https://www.procapslabs.com/Products/Memory-Brain-with-Acetyl-L-Carnitine/301590/ 
[9] https://themindfulsteward.com/mental-health/curcumin-and-mental-health-the-link-between-turmeric-and-brain-function/ 
[10] https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-979/caffeine 
[11] https://www.forbes.com/health/supplements/health-benefits-of-lions-mane/

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.