As a multitude of scientific studies have shown, what we eat and drink has a direct impact on our brain. (Soda, booze, and sugary treats? Not great. Fish, olive oil, and veggies? Gold Star.) Brain health experts have even pinpointed specific nutrients that are particularly important for brain health, including help reduce the risk of dementia.
Ideally, everyone would get all of these nutrients through food. Experts agree that the best source of vitamins and other nutrients comes from whole foods as part of a balanced diet, she says. Dr. Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., the vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association. However, he adds that even experts acknowledge this isn’t always possible. That’s where supplements can come in handy to fill the gaps.
While it’s important to know that no food, drink, ingredient, vitamin, or supplement has been shown to prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer’s disease, having the nutritional basics covered can certainly help. If dementia prevention is at the top of your health goals and you’re worried you’re not getting what you need through diet alone, here are five supplements to consider by asking your doctor.
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What to keep in mind when buying brain health supplements
Whenever you’re shopping for supplements, it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth and to make sure they actually contain the nutrients they claim. Supplements aren’t regulated like prescription drugs, so they can vary widely in quality. Additionally, one should consult with their primary care physician to make sure a supplement is not contraindicated for them and does not interfere or interact with any other prescription or over-the-counter medications they may be taking, she says. Dr. Lynn A. Schaefer, PhD, ABPP-CNneuropsychologist at Nassau University Medical Center.
Look for supplements that have been tested by an independent third party such as ConsumerLab, the US Pharmacopeial Convention Dietary Supplement Verification Program, or Labdoor. This will ensure that there is nothing toxic in the supplements and that the ingredients and dosage match what is advertised.
With that in mind, these are the five supplements brain health experts recommend for dementia prevention.
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5 Supplements to Help Prevent Dementia Dementia, according to brain health experts
1. Folic acid
While all of the B vitamins support brain health, Dr. Schaefer says folic acid is the one that’s shown the most promise in preventing dementia. In a study involving people recently diagnosed with dementia, those who took a folic acid supplement for six months had a significantly greater increase in serum folate (which is important for cognitive function) than those who they did not take a supplement. To get your folic acid through food, focus on eating more leafy greens, beans, whole grains, fruits, and sunflower seeds.
Third-party independently tested folic acid supplements include Now Folic Acid With Vitamin B-12 ($6.36), Natures Bounty Folic Acid ($17.98), and Natures Made Folic Acid ($5.68).
2. Vitamin D
It is estimated that 35% of American adults do not get enough vitamin Da, a very important nutrient for brain health. Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a neurosteroid in the brain. Vitamin D receptors are found in the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory formation, says Dr. Shaefer. While a study in mice showed that taking a vitamin D supplement actually increased the risk of dementia, a more recent study in 12,388 people showed that taking a vitamin D supplement could reduce the risk of dementia by up to at 40%.
Vitamin D supplements to consider include Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D3 Liquid ($36), HUM Nutrition Here Comes the Sun ($20), and Well Told Health Plant-Based Vitamin D ($19.99).
Related: Vitamin D Is Key to Protecting Your Health Are You Getting Enough? Here’s what to know
3. Fish oil (omega-3)
There’s a reason fish is commonly referred to as brain food. Dr. Schaefer says the omega-3s in fish are important for supporting memory and brain cell communication. If you don’t eat fish on a regular basis, taking a fish oil supplement is worth considering. A study of over 82,000 people showed that taking a fish oil supplement significantly helped reduce the risk of dementia.
Third-party independently tested fish oil supplements to consider include Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega Softgels ($67.95), Care/of Fish Oil Softgels ($16), and Life Extension Super Omega-3 Softgels ($27) .
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another nutrient that Dr. Schaefer says recent scientific studies are showing may be beneficial for the prevention of dementia. That’s because vitamin E helps with neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to form new connections key to learning. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant, which helps prevent and reduce chronic inflammation in the brain.
Vitamin E foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, corn oil, and soybean oil. Vitamin E supplements to consider include Pure Encapsulations Vitamin E ($34.30), Nordic Naturals Vitamin E Complex ($17.81), and CVS Health Vitamin E ($14.99).
In terms of herbal supplements to add to your all-star dementia prevention lineup, Dr. Schaefer says one to consider is curcumin, found in turmeric. Curcumin has also been shown in animal and human studies to be neuroprotective in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, she says, though she adds that its use to prevent dementia requires further study including dosage, how long it can be used, and the form. more bioavailable. for sufficient absorption. The reason curcumin is beneficial for brain health is because it helps prevent and reduce chronic inflammation.
Curcumin supplements to consider include Thorne Curcumin Phytosome ($32), Nature Made Turmeric ($25.99), and My Kind Organics Maximum Strength Turmeric ($21.94).
Both experts reiterate that the best way to minimize the risk of dementia is to eat a wide range of nutrient-dense foods, avoid overly processed and sugary foods, prioritize regular exercise, and get good sleep. But supplements can help fill any nutritional gaps that you may not be addressing with diet. And with this list, you now know exactly what to ask your doctor about.
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