What SUPP with My Brain?

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I’m sitting here eating an olive oil and spice crusted salmon fillet with a side of roasted asparagus, trying to decide if my topic is thought provoking enough for my first blog post.  To tell you the truth, I chose the topic “memory enhancing foods and supplements” not just because it’s a popular topic, but also to research for my own benefit.  Folks, I’m losing my mind.  Seriously.  While my sisters can remember things from our childhood, down to the very location a certain conversation was had, I can’t seem to remember entire months out of that same year!


I’ve researched all the memory foods: blueberries, cruciferous veggies and leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseed, coconut oil, green tea, coffee, rosemary, cold water and oily fish like salmon… wait—salmon?!  That’s what I’m eating right now!  And come to think of it, I eat ALL of those memory foods quite frequently.  They are staples in my diet.  Although it seems I have the food aspect covered, I want to do more.

We hear so much about supplements that improve cognitive function like ginkgo biloba, Vitamin B12, and choline, to name a few.  In fact, ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years!  I did some research to try to connect these notions with science.  I knocked on science’s hopeful, shiny door and was discouraged to find a somewhat muddy answer.

Turns out most studies look at the effects of B12 in the elderly rather than in all adult age ranges, which makes sense as B12 absorption decreases while dementia increases with age.  But still, that’s not very useful to me.  Studies of choline, the essential micronutrient found in eggs, mainly focus on memory development in human infants and animal pregnancy.  Again, not quite what I’m looking for.  I was excited to see a meta-analysis by Laws et. al. look across a wide spectrum of adult ages and include over 2,000 subjects.  My excitement for a strong study faded when I realized they found no impact of ginkgo biloba on a range of cognitive functions like memory, executive function, and attention.

These studies are essential for moving forward, but really, we don’t know all the answers yet.  I trust scientific studies, but I also trust thousands of years of traditional, holistic medicine.  The atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 left at least 90,000 people dead, yet 6 trees within the site remained standing when the smoke cleared and still stand today.  Those hardy tenacious trees are none other than Ginkgo biloba trees.  They stand the test of time as well as radiation and destruction.  Something must be said for this observance, too.  I truly believe science is making great progress but really, more research is needed to fully understand the use of traditional medicines and herbs.

So where do we go from here?  How can we take this knowledge and increase our brainpower??  Well the first step is to focus on getting your nutrients from your diet!  Improve your diet by including a wide variety of whole, clean, unprocessed, nutritious foods, especially those listed above.  Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food (thanks, Hippocrates).

Looking at it in an individualistic approach, specific people could benefit from a supplement while others may not.  Different bodies respond differently to different stimuli. Therefore, it is important to speak with a professional before taking an herbal or supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA.  A professional will be able to help identify drug interactions and recommend safe amounts to take.  And even at safe limits, while a supplement may not harm your body, it may harm your wallet if you continue to take it without any noticeable benefits!

I, personally, think I might try an herbal supplement and see if I notice any benefits like quicker processing speed and better long-term memory.  Hey, I have a $20 coupon for a nutrition store that I received for completing a marathon last year; why not use it?  Maybe my memory will dig up some good, juicy, 10-year-old conversations I had with my sisters years ago, maybe it won’t.

Hmm…now if I could only remember where I put that coupon…