Brain health and mental wellness matters.
It includes emotional, psychological and social well-being. In addition, can influence how you feel about yourself, the world and your life and your ability to solve problems and overcome challenges.
Neuroscience on mental wellness and boosting your brain
The study of neuroscience focuses on the brain and its effects on behavior and cognition. A neuroscientist aims to understand the functioning of the nervous system as well as the effects of neurological, psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders on the nervous system, neuroscience studies both .
Who better to advise about better care for our mental health and brain than a neuroscientist? Clinical neuroscientist Caroline Leaf, PhD, BSc, has over 30 years of experience researching how the brain, body and mind work together to promote brain longevity .
Focusing on brain health
According to Leaf, the mind directly impacts cognitive health, function and performance. “The mind drives the brain, but the mind also uses the brain. So, if the brain is not healthy, this can affect how we function mentally, our cognitive processing, and memory formation,” she says.
To improve mental self-care and brain health, Leaf suggests a combination of behavioral and lifestyle changes. You can do this by taking supplements that nourish and protect your brain.
“Brain supplements, also known as ‘nootropics,’ are becoming more commonly used to promote memory creation and mental clarity, improve learning and processing speed, and combat occasional brain fog .
Ingredients to look for in a brain health supplement
Leaf recommends to look for these ingredients are good to have in a brain health supplement:
- Citicoline: maintains neurotransmitter production, neuronal health, and function throughout the lifespan. Clinical studies have shown that this powerful neuronutrient increases mental ATP energy, enhances brain cell membrane formation and supports mental processing speed and the ability to tune out distractions .
- Resveratrol: boosts cellular resilience and mitochondrial health and promote brain longevity by combating oxidative stress and delivering neuroprotection .
- Kanna: this nootropic botanical is sourced from South Africa, and helps balance key neurotransmitters (such as serotonin), strengthen stress resilience, and improve executive function and cognitive flexibility .
“Whether you’re 25 or 75, it’s never too early to protect and nourish your brain,” Leaf adds.
Highlighting lifestyle changes and diet for longevity
According to a recent study, about 25 percent of adults over 50 take a supplement to improve their brain health . Although, Harvard Health is still more firm on recommending practising good lifestyle habits like following a healthy diet and getting adequate exercise.
It has been shown that certain diets – like the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and MIND diet, for example – can improve cognitive function. These diets provide foods high in these vitamins and minerals.
There is no clear picture of whether the combination of nutrients in these diets is beneficial, if it’s specific nutrients or even certain amounts, or if it’s another factor. These questions have been addressed by researchers by testing these nutrients’ effects on cognitive health. Despite a few rare exceptions, most studies have found no evidence they help.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
However, that doesn’t mean the brain supplements aren’t effective. A randomised clinical trial is the gold standard of research, so there aren’t many data on isolated vitamins or minerals and brain health.
People still take brain health supplements for a variety of reasons. One is that taking pills is easier than making lasting lifestyle changes. Instead, you can opt to exercise more and follow a plant-based diet. Long-term, these can be more beneficial for memory and brain health than any supplement .
Whatever you choose, it’s a significant step to include your brain health and mental wellness in your list of priorities this 2023.