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Thinking it Over: Cognition Support

Cognitive Health Cognitive Health

Cognitive issues are widespread, and the fear of neurological diseases such as dementia is shared among millions of American adults. Here’s how to help keep their minds at ease.

Senior moments are happening to young people. It’s inevitable when life is so full of responsibilities and more devices and things crying out for our attention. Rapid-fire “click, tap and swipe” living is causing stress on the brain.

And when the brain is constantly stressed, thinking in circles and forgetting things tend to happen with increasing frequency.

Yesterday’s Adderall generation are now parents living this frenetic lifestyle, and their parents (Generation Xers) are following suit.

The older generation, Baby Boomers, are more worried about increased risk of developing dementia; and globally, approximately 42 million people have it. A 2016 study suggested a link between the typical Western diet and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a specific form of dementia. The author of the epidemiological study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded, “The evidence of these risk factors, which come from ecological and observational studies, also shows that fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy products, legumes, and fish are associated with reduced risk.”

According to Jason Edwards, CEO of Rebel Herbs in Indiana, cognitive decline has become one of the most important issues among consumers over the last decade, due in part to an aging but active population. “With age as a major risk factor for cognitive decline and our Baby Boomer population reaching retirement age, it is not hard to understand why cognitive issues are becoming more of a concern,” he pointed out. To illustrate, he cited that in 2004, one in every eight Americans (36 million) were aged 65 years or older. By 2030, this number is expected to nearly double to 71.5 million, which means one fifth of the population will be in this age group.

Further, he added, according to a recent survey, twice as many adults fear losing the mental capacity than losing the physical abilities. “So, we expect that the growing retirement age population will continue this concern through the next decade, making the cognitive performance market one of the powerhouses of the natural product industry.”

Rebel Herbs sales staff, he said, has seen this attitude in its own product sales as the desire for cognitive products continues to grow with increasing velocity. “Our most common questions from consumers seems to center around memory issues and focus or attention issues.”

Mark J. Kaylor, founder of the Georgia-based Radiant Health Project and a consultant to New Jersey-based Mushroom Wisdom Inc., observed that during the last 10 years, as a large number of Baby Boomers have moved into their latter years, there has been an “understandable and corresponding growth in maintaining and maximizing brain health and function. I think folks have become more aware of the fact that a preventive path is the most effective path when it comes to aging-associated conditions,” he noted.

Kaylor added that many surveys have underscored that maintaining brain function as people age is a leading health concern in middle age and on. “After all, who wants to spend their latter years unable to enjoy and appreciate the time that our increased life span has provided?”

What remains true, said Jorge E. Angel, medical advisor, Idaho-based Welife Naturals, is that the increase in life expectancy has been linked with a significant increase in individuals with chronic non-communicable diseases, specifically Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The percentage of older adults in the world will double by 2050, he noted, and every year there are approximately 7.7 million cases of dementia, of which 60 to 70 percent are Alzheimer’s. “This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about the serious problem that is looming in case of not taking preventive measures immediately,” he commented. “In addition to measures such as exercise, nutrition and meditation, we can also support brain health with nutritional supplements.”

Jamie Langston RN, BSN, CCRP, chief research officer at LifeSeasons (Texas), stated that “there is still so much we don’t know about cognitive decline, but [what] we do know is that as people age, their brains change in a myriad of ways. There are both neuro-anatomical and neurophysiological changes that occur. Currently, we are unable to map the links between the brain and cognition, and this is a major focus of many cognitive neuroscience studies.”

Medical science has shown that certain cognitive functions remain stable with age while some decline. An interesting note, Langston observed, is that individually, cognitive ability decreases in function in a particular area and there is evidence that there will be an increase in another area to compensate for these deficits.

“This actually makes older individuals better in some areas than their younger counterparts,” she attested. “And, this is substantiated in research where testing has shown that on some tasks, older participants either outperformed or did as well as their younger test participants. We also know that normal age-related cognitive change does not impair a person’s ability to perform daily activities.”

Contributing Factors

When a person’s brain ages, there is some normal decline, Langston explained. But these are more annoying than signifying illness, and they include free recall (such as a grocery list), recalling the source of new learning (was it from the internet or a magazine?), and remembering to perform an intended future action, such as taking out the garbage, or taking a supplement before bed. Conversely, areas that don’t decline are the ability to retrieve information, memory of order of events (such as getting gas then seeing a neighbor cross the street), and memory of how to perform things such as riding a bicycle or making the bed.

Of course, in this case, cognitive issues that are age related differ from person to person, and there is, said Langston, significant variability in age-related cognitive changes between individuals. The looming question is why this occurs.

Human cognitive function is influenced by a variety of factors, notably lifestyle and nutrition, genetics, trauma and presence of disease, medicines, as well as both normal and pathological aging. Some of these variables, such as genetics, are uncontrollable; however, “a vast majority of the contributing factors to cognitive decline in aging are highly correlated with lifestyle choices,” she underscored.

She mentioned several longitudinal studies, such as the Seattle Longitudinal Study, Bronx Aging Study and the Victoria Longitudinal Study, that all show evidence that engaging in certain activities can prevent or decrease age-related decline. Although these studies use observational data, more recently they have added outcome measures based on brain structure such as hippocampal volume, grey matter atrophy and white matter lesion loads.

Timothy R. Jennings, MD, author of The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind, recommended natural practitioners advise their patients who are concerned about maintaining cognitive fitness to do the following:

• Regular physical exercise, which reduces inflammation, turns on neuroproteins that stimulate the brain to create new connections, and improve insulin sensitivity allowing the brain to more efficiently process and eliminate waste products, all of which promote improved brain health.

• Regular mental exercise, which causes the brain to develop more complex circuitry, form new connections and increase resilience, which reduce risk of dementia.

• Anti-inflammatory diet (Mediterranean or vegan), which reduces inflammation and provides vital nutrients to keep the brain healthy. “Fast foods, junk foods, high sugar foods, artificial sweeteners all increase oxidative stress on the brain and increase the risk of dementia,” he emphasized. “A healthy diet not only removes the increased oxidative pressure, but provides antioxidative protection.”

• Regular non-medicated sleep for about eight hours each night. Sleep is healing in many ways, and sleep allows for the necessary consolidation of memories and removal of metabolism byproducts. Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of dementia, he pointed out.

• Meditation and stress management. “Unremitting stress activates the brain’s stress circuitry, increasing stress hormones which increase inflammation, resulting in higher risk for metabolic disease and dementia,” Dr. Jennings explained. “Regular meditation and stress management reduces this risk and keeps the brain healthy.”

Langston added that activities associated with high cognitive function in older adults include:

• Intellectual: Playing musical instruments, high complexity careers and higher education

• Physical: Exercise, dancing, gardening

• Social: Travel, socializing with friends and family, and participating in cultural events

Diet is a critical component to review with patients. In the past 10 years, high-calorie/low-dietary fiber diets and the risk and incidence of diet-related diseases are increasingly linked with age-related cognitive decline and increased risk of developing dementia.

Dr. Jennings recommended the following nutrients for brain support:

• Omega 3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) are anti-inflammatory, he explained, and “provide neural membrane plasticity, and those with higher levels of these in their diet had greater brain volume and better cognitive performance.”

• Raw walnuts are also brain food, and studies show that people who eat raw walnuts regularly exhibit better brain volume and cognitive performance. Studies reveal walnut extract removes amyloid (protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease) from the brain.

• Pomegranate juice is also supportive of brain structure, he noted. Studies reveal this juice—just one 8-oz. glass per day—removes amyloid from the brain and has antioxidant effects that pmote better brain health.

• Vitamin C is a multi-functional and powerful antioxidant and concentrates inside neurons on reducing oxidative stress.

Supplements to Ponder

There are quite a few supplements to recommend to your patients/clients, depending on their needs and their lifestyle habits.

Rebel Herbs’ brain-support products (formula #68 Nuroade and formula #11 Nurosteady), said Edwards, contain a patented ingredient called NuroLight, which is a blend of CO2 extracts from ginger, bacopa, rosemary, flaxseed and Celastrus paniculatus. Nuroade also has turmeric and chebulic added for their specific benefits toward an aging population. The company, he reported, performed Phase 1 and Phase 2 placebo-controlled, double-blind human clinical trials on this blend, and the research served as the platform for the award of two U.S. patents and four international patents. “The research even showed a big jump in IQ scores after only one year on the product,” he said. “Nuroade was designed for the aging adult population to help maintain memory and NuroSteady was designed for younger adults and children to help maintain normal focus and attention levels.”

Rebel Herbs also offers the Nuroade blend in a vapor form. Edwards explained, “Vapor allows for extremely fast delivery and immediate benefit. Using vapor to deliver the herbal extracts to the blood stream through the lungs skips digestion and gives benefit within 15 minutes.”

According to Edwards, Adam Breiner, ND, a practitioner in Fairfield, CT has documented case studies on the effect of the Nuroade vapor using an EEG-based brain interface. “The patient was deficient in alpha wave based on a preliminary scan, but within 20 minutes of using the Nuroade vapor, the equipment showed a 58 percent improvement in brain wave activity,” Breiner described. “This case study also demonstrated a 72 percent improvement with extended use of the Nuroade vapor over a two-month period.”

Lion’s Mane mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, primarily as a whole-body vitality tonic and long-term digestion tonic, said Kaylor. In the last couple of decades, researchers have begun to explore its use for a range of brain-health benefits, from mood balancing to supporting an aging brain.

Two classes of constituents from the lion’s mane mushroom contains two types of constituents that Kaylor asserted have demonstrated value and promise in brain and cognition support. The first, hericenones, has been shown to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor, which Kaylor described as a naturally occurring compound in the brain that has been shown to slow the production of amyloid-beta plaque buildup (a factor in Alzheimer’s). Amyloban is the other lion’s mane compound that studies have suggested has a protective effect on healthy brain cells.

These two compounds are combined in a proprietary extract called Amycenone, which can be found in the Mushroom Wisdom product Amyloban 3399. “Studies performed with various lion’s mane materials have found improvements in memory, mood, balance, perception, functional independence and more in aging brain models, including one placebo controlled clinical trial,” Kaylor explained. “In my personal experience with Amyloban 3399, and with clients, I have found it to be the fastest-acting effective brain-supporting supplement, often seeing improvements in cognition and memory in just a few days.”

The components of Welife’s HoloRam Cerevitan, said Angel, “have synergic effects on the energy neurovascular regulation. This is of vital importance for the prevention of behavioral and cognitive disorders, common in the elderly. Each of these adaptogens has a systematic action that involves the harmonic regulation of essential functions for maintaining the attentiveness, memory, learning and adaptation to their environment. All of this can be achieved thanks not only to the synergy of all the components of HoloRam Cerevitan, but also due to the particular effect of each one of them.”

Angel elaborated that the product’s mechanisms of action are based on the processes that stimulate and maintain normal neuronal function, including stress adaptation, central nervous system irrigation and controls of the inflammatory, autoimmune and oxidative metabolism processes that can affect the normal functions of the nervous system. “It favors the restoration of the cellular membranes physiology of the neuronal groups and their lipoprotein substrate, essential for the transfer of information at the central level,” he said.

There are seven categories of constituents that comprise HoloRam Cerevitan, said Angel.

• Main adaptogens: Ashwagandha, ginseng, mangosteen, triphala create a synergy that Angel said “produces a potent and revitalizing central systemic effect, thanks to their activity as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood purifier.”

• Nutritional adaptogens: Maca and reishi provide micronutrients that are shown to induce and catalyze the metabolic balance required by the normal functions of the central nervous system.

• Phytonutrients: Turmeric, hawthorn, ginkgo and olive, which Angel said promote the restoring of the irrigation in the central nervous system.

• Minerals and trace elements: Magnesium malate, zinc gluconate, copper gluconate and manganese gluconate act as cofactors required for the synthesis and enzymatic activity that is necessary for the metabolism and irrigation of the central nervous system.

• Amino acids: L-arginine, L-aspartic acid, L-phenylalanine, L-glutamic acid, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), L-citrulline and acetyl-l-carnitine act as the precursor group of the primary neurotransmitters. They also support mitochondrial metabolism, required for the energy production and essential for the neuronal activity.

• Antioxidants: Coenzyme Q10 and superoxide dismutase are shown to combat oxidative stress often triggered by toxic free radicals, recognized now as the common denominator of neurodegenerative processes.

• Phospholipids and vitamins: Vitamin B6, folic acid, NADH, AMP adenosine 5 monophosphate (AMP) and soy lecithin are vital nutrients that produce healthy neuronal membranes, myelin and also neurotransmitters.

LifeSeasons, according to Langston, created Clari-T to support healthy functioning of memory and the brain without the side effects of pharmaceuticals. It is formulated to enhance neurotransmission by supporting normal blood circulation to the brain. It contains bacopa, toothed club moss, Gingko biloba and ginger, which she said all work together to assist blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the brain.

“Clari-T was developed to work on two different levels—one shorter term and one longer term,” she explained. “After taking it for one to two months, most people notice that they have a much quicker recall and don’t struggle as much to think of specific words. When taken regularly, it could have long-term effects of keeping memory sharper. Everyone is different, and results will vary from person to person. The key is to maintain consistent use every day to see best results.”

Neuro-T is LifeSeasons’ tonic, nootropic formula developed with nutrients and herbs that Langston asserted promote the ability to focus longer, with less stress, enhance mental performance and help to increase attention span. “Research has shown that nootropics may promote clear thinking and mental productivity among students and professionals,” she said. “Most people see the effects of Neuro-T within 30 minutes, which include increased ability to focus, less anxiety, longer attention span, and a general feeling of being ‘in the zone,’” Langston added. Neuro-T contains vitamins B-6 and B-12, L-theanine, kava kava, bacopa, yerba mate, caffeine, holy basil, ginkgo and huperzine A to help promote concentration and focus.

New from Omax Health is Omax Cognitive Boost, described by the company on its website as “an advanced omega-3 brain health supplement that combines two pharmaceutical-strength ingredients.” It comes highly concentrated DHA (1,000 mg) with 150 mg alpha-GPC that helps boost neurotransmitter activity, and supporting memory, focus concentration and energy.

Brain and cognition support are more critical for people of all ages today, and ensuring that your patients/clients are engaging in health-promoting lifestyles can go a long way to ensuring that senior moments are fewer.

Healthy Take Aways:

• Approximately 42 million people globally have dementia.
• A 2016 study suggested a link between typical Western diet and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Regular mental exercise causes the brain to develop more complex circuitry, form new connections and increase resilience, which reduce risk of dementia.
• Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of dementia.

For More Information:

LifeSeasons, www.lifeseasons.com
Mushroom Wisdom Inc., www.mushroomwisdom.com
Omax Health, www.omaxhealth.com
Rebel Herbs, www.rebelherbs.com
Welife Naturals, www.welifenaturals.com