Improving Memory, Focus & Preventing Cognitive Decline Using These 5 Compounds

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Getting old is bitter sweet. Character-building experience, incredible memories, and exceptional insight come with age. However, our metabolism, bone mass, strength, muscle tone, and cognitive function also decline slowly but surely.

Tiger Fitness readers know the importance of a balanced diet high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and essential fats as well as the benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise and resistance training. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep are three critical components to living a long, healthy life.

Related: Somatopause – The Decline of Growth Hormone With Age

Over the past decade both the scientific community and general population shifted focus on additional components, specifically natural and synthetic compounds that extend both the quality and quantity of the average lifespan. While there is no immortality pill, there are a number of compounds with strong clinical evidence that can enhance memory, improve focus, and/or prevent and in some instances reverse cognitive decline.

This article explores a number of compounds found in over-the-counter supplements that improve memory, blood flow to the brain, as well as slow the development of or lessen the symptoms of crippling conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Each section discusses clinical evidence, dosages, and products with the brain-boosting compound.

5 Compounds to Improve Memory, Focus & Fight Cognitive Decline

#1 – Gingko Biloba

Gingko BilobaGingko biloba is one of the oldest trees in the world, its leaf extracts being used for both traditional and folk medicine for thousands of years. [1] Although gingko biloba does not appear to prevent age-related memory diseases like Alzheimer’s, it does appear to reduce the severity of the symptoms.

80 to 120mg two to three times per day of a gingko biloba extract comprised standardized to about 24% gingkoflavones and 6% terpenoids improves ability to remember details, learn new things, concentrate, and make decisions in those experience cognitive decline. [2]

Gingko biloba contains potent antioxidants and works on the mitochondrial level to stabilize the cell membrane and increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production. [3] Gingko is also effective at improving memory quality, alleviating the symptoms of dementia, preventing blood clots from forming and growing in the blood stream, treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. [4][5][6][7]

Those taking blood thinners like warfarin, with bleeding disorders like hemophilia, or with upcoming surgery should abstain from gingko biloba supplementation as it may increase bleeding risk. [8] For the majority of the population regular moderate gingko biloba supplementation is very safe and has a low risk of toxicity.

Gingko Biloba is offered as both a single-ingredient standalone product or as a part of a supplement’s proprietary blend. Vitalabs Gingko Biloba contains 60mg of a 24% extract per capsule.

NutraKey Gingko Biloba offers 120mg leaf extract per capsule using a 50:1 standardized extract containing a minimum of 24% ginkgoflavonglycodies & 6% Terpene Lactones. Controlled Labs Oximega Greens includes 13mg in a one scoop serving as part of lengthy ingredient profile. Universal Natural Sterol Complex lists gingko biloba 2nd of 4 ingredients in a 500mg Muscle Cell Protection Blend per 6 tablet serving.

#2 – Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa monnieri is an herb with potent memory-enhancing and brain-protecting properties. The primary active ingredients are three saponins – bacosides, bacopasides, and bacopasaponins. [9] 98 healthy individuals over the age of 55 consumed 300mg of bacopa monnieri or placebo extract every day for 12 weeks and those consuming the bacopa significant improve their verbal learning, memory acquisition, and delayed recall as measured by the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. [10]

An 18-week trial found that daily bacopa consumption for 12 consecutive weeks significantly improved CESD-10 depression and anxiety scores, as well as decreased resting heart rate while the placebo group experienced increases in these parameters. [11] Moderate regular doses bacopa monnieri for 10-12+ weeks of time significantly improves blood flow to the brain, decreases the rate of forgetting newly acquired information, improves cognition, decreases choice reaction time. [12][13][14]

Unlike some brain-boosting compounds that work (or feel like they’re working) instantly, bacopa takes some time to build up in your system so consume 300mg of bacopa monnieri extract standardized to 55% bacosides for 8 to 12 weeks with a fat source to maximize active ingredient absorption and the compound’s effects. [15] The most common side effect accompanying bacopa supplementation is an upset stomach but this is most frequently reported by those consuming large quantities on an empty stomach.

You can find bacopa monnieri as a standalone supplement sold by bulk supplement retailers but this compound is most commonly included as part of a blend in nootropic, multivitamin, pre-workout, and fat burning supplements. The nootropic product Ambrosia Mental Jewels has 250mg of bacopa monnieri extract, standardized to 45% glycosides, per 4 capsule serving.

The pre-workout Universal Animal Rage XL lists this compound 4th in a list of 4 ingredients as part of the 4th of 4 proprietary blends comprising 3,635mg of active ingredients per 1 scoop serving. SAN Dr. Feel Good Multivitamin includes 100mg bacopa monnieri extract, standardized to 40% bacoside saponins, per 8 tablet serving. Controlled Labs Red Ghost is a fat burner with 400mg of bacopa monnieri extract, standardized to 50% bacosides, per 4 capsule serving.

Memory

#3 – Alpha-Glycerolphosphorylcholine (GPC)

Alpha-Glycerolphosphorylcholine, also known as Alpha-GPC, is a form of choline with both memory and power-output enhancing benefits. Choline is critical for the function and protection of the wall of the brain’s nervous cells. [16]

This compound not only slows cognitive decline but also significantly improves the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease when consumed at a dosage of 400mg consumed three-times-per-day. [17] Scientists measured the improvement using a Mini-Mental State Examination, Global Deterioration Scale, all items of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale, and the Clinical Global Impression scale. [18]

When over 2000 patients with recent stroke or transient ischemic attacks consumed 1,000 of Alpha-GPC daily for 28 days followed by 400mg daily for five months the subjects experienced significant improvement on the Mathew Scale (used to determine psychic recovery), decreases on the Crichton Rating Scale, increases on the Mini Mental State Test and classification as “no cognitive decline or forgetfulness” on the Global Deterioration Scale. [16]

Studies involving rats indicate that Alpha-GPC may also reverse amnesia although results have not been replicated in humans. If you’re looking for a brain boosting source of choline, then Alpha-GPC is your bet. Alpha-GPC is included in pre-workout, pre-bed, and nootropic supplements.

Controlled Labs White Flood, a popular pre-workout, includes 50mg per 1 scoop serving. AI Sports HGHpro is a pre-bed supplement offering 500mg of this compound per 4 capsule serving. Animal PM lists Alpha-GPC 5th in a 3,000mg 5-ingredient GH Boosting Complex proprietary blend per 1 pack serving. Ambrosia Mental Jewels has 150mg of AlphaSize™ Alpha GPC (50% Alpha-Glycerolphosphorylcholine) per 4 capsule serving.

#4 – Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a potent antioxidant compound found in foods like fish, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, and rice as well as isolated from soy to be offered in high-potency supplement form. [19] Structurally phosphatidylserine appears similar to the dietary fat found in brain tissue and plays a critical role in normal brain cell membrane functioning and activation of the protein kinase C which is vital for memory recall. [19]

A dose of 100mg taken three times per day with a fat source significantly increases cognition, attention, and anaerobic running capacity while decreasing cognitive decline. [20]

A study of 78 males and females between the ages of 50 and 69 with cognitive impairment found that three daily doses of 100mg of phosphatidylserine for six months significant increased delayed verbal recall, one of the most common memory abilities that begins to decline during the early stages of dementia. [21] In animal studies, phosphatidylserine decreases oxidative stress in the brain, decreases nitric monoxide liver levels, and increases glutathione peroxidase activity, a critical enzyme protecting the body from oxidative stress. [22]

From the exercise perspective 800mg of this compound decreases the excessive cortisol output often accompanying overtraining, improves work capacity during aerobic exercise, and decreases the self-reported instances of muscle soreness. [23] Phosphatidylserine is not a hormone or prohormone so don’t expect crazy increases in size and strength, but you should find your performance in the gym or on the field and recovery will subtly but noticeably improve.

Those interested in both brain function and athletic performance-enhancing compounds should incorporate ample phosphatidylserine from both food and supplement sources.

Phosphatidylserine is a component in pre-bed, testosterone-boosting, and nootropic supplements. Pro Supps Crash lists the compound 5th in a 483mg 12-ingredient Crash Opti-Matrix proprietary blend per 2 capsule serving. Betancourt Nutrition Test-HP includes SerinAid Phosphatidylserine 20% 3rd in a 920mg 4-ingredient Test-HP Proprietary Blend per 3 capsule serving. Ambrosia Mental Jewels offers 50mg of SerinAid 50P™ (Phosphatidylserine Powder 50%) per 4 capsule serving

#5 – Huperzine-A

Huperzine-A is an alkaloid derived from Huperzia serrata, a Chinese herb with no known toxicity that offers significant positive effects on the memories of healthy individuals of all ages, those with Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia. [24] A meta-analysis of six trials and 454 subjects found that six to twelve weeks of supplementing this compound significantly improved cognitive function as measured by the Mini Mental State Examination and Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognition, Clinical Dementia Rating, and Clinicians Global Impression of Change Plus Caregiver Input. [25]

Huperzine-A is an exceptional inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the critical neurotransmitters in the brain. [24] A study of 68 middle school students found that 50mcg of this compound consumed daily for four weeks significantly increase memory quotient and knowledge retention compared to placebo without any side effects. [26] Consume 50 to 200mcg of this compound daily with or without a meal in a single dose or spread across multiple doses. [27]

There is limited research available on the long-term use of this compound. Given its lack of toxicity and neuroprotective effects it’s worth incorporating moderate doses as part of a supplement stack focused on neuroprotection.

Huperzine-A is most commonly included in pre-workout formulas but you can also find it in some nootropic supplements. Gamma Labs G Fuel lists this compound 6th in a 1,200mg 6-ingredient Focus Complex proprietary blend per one scoop serving. The most recent formulation of BSN NO Explode lists toothed clubmoss extract (aerial parts) (1% Huperzine A) 6th in a 290mg 9-ingredient Shock Composite proprietary blend per 1 scoop serving.

Myokem Nitramine utilizes huperzia serrata extract (std. min 1% Huperzine A), listing 8th in a 482mg 10-ingredient High Energy Matrix proprietary blend per 1 scoop serving. Ambrosia Mental Jewels is a nootropic with 10mg of Huperzia Serrata extract (1% Huperzine A) per 4 capsule serving.

Comment below with your experiences with the compounds discussed above as well as any recommended supplements or compounds not discussed that you feel to be must-have in your brain-boosting neuroprotection stack.

References

1) “Ginkgo.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. National Institutes of Health, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
2) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Ginkgo Biloba – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. June 2016.
3) Cybulska-Heinrich, A.K., M. Mozaffarieh, and J. Flammer. “Ginkgo Biloba: An Adjuvant Therapy for Progressive Normal and High Tension Glaucoma.” Molecular Vision 18 (2012): 390–402. Print.
4) Wesnes, K. A., et al. “The Memory Enhancing Effects of a Ginkgo Biloba/Panax Ginseng Combination in Healthy Middle-aged Volunteers.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Psychopharmacology (Berl)., Nov. 2000. Web. June 2016.
5) Naderi, Gholam Ali et al. “Fibrinolytic Effects of Ginkgo Biloba Extract.” Experimental & Clinical Cardiology 10.2 (2005): 85–87. Print.
6) Weinmann, Stefan et al. “Effects of Ginkgo Biloba in Dementia: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” BMC Geriatrics 10 (2010): 14. PMC. Web. June 2016.
7) Cohen, A. J., and B. Bertlik. “Ginkgo Biloba for Antidepressant-induced Sexual Dysfunction.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Sex Marital Ther., June 1998. Web. June 2016.
8) “Ginkgo – At A Glance.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. National Institutes of Health, 27 Apr. 2016. Web. June 2016.
9) Calabrese, Carlo et al. “Effects of a Standardized Bacopa Monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14.6 (2008): 707–713. PMC. Web. June 2016.
10) Morgan, A., and J. Stevens. “Does Bacopa Monnieri Improve Memory Performance in Older Persons? Results of a Randomized, Placebo-controlled, Double-blind Trial. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Altern Complement Med., July 2010. Web. June 2016.
11) Calabrese, Carlo et al. “Effects of a Standardized Bacopa Monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14.6 (2008): 707–713. PMC. Web. June 2016.
12) Kamkaew, N., et al. “Bacopa Monnieri Increases Cerebral Blood Flow in Rat Independent of Blood Pressure.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Phytother Res, Jan. 2013. Web. June 2016.
13) Roodenrys, S., et al. “Chronic Effects of Brahmi (Bacopa Monnieri) on Human Memory.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. Neuropsychopharmacology, Aug. 2002. Web. June 2016.
14) Kongkeaw, C., et al. “Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials on Cognitive Effects of Bacopa Monnieri Extract.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Ethnopharmacol., 2014. Web. June 2016.
15) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Bacopa Monnieri – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. June 2016.
16) Barbagallo Sangiorgi, G., et al. “Alpha-Glycerophosphocholine in the Mental Recovery of Cerebral Ischemic Attacks. An Italian Multicenter Clinical Trial.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Ann N Y Acad Sci., 30 June 1994. Web. June 2016.
17) Orwell, Sol, et al. “Alpha-GPC – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. June 2016.
18) De Jesus Moreno Moreno, M. “Cognitive Improvement in Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Dementia After Treatment with the Acetylcholine Precursor Choline Alfoscerate: a Multicenter,…” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Clin Ther., Jan. 2003. Web. June 2016.
19) “Phosphatidylserine – C13H24NO10P.” The PubChem Project. National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2016. Web. June 2016.
20) Frank, Kurtis. “Phosphatidylserine – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. June 2016.
21) Kato-Kataoka, Akito et al. “Soybean-Derived Phosphatidylserine Improves Memory Function of the Elderly Japanese Subjects with Memory Complaints.”Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition 47.3 (2010): 246–255. PMC. Web. 9 June 2016.
22) Chaung, H. C. “Docosahexaenoic Acid and Phosphatidylserine Improves the Antioxidant Activities in Vitro and in Vivo and Cognitive Functions of the Developing Brain.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. Food Chem., May 2013. Web. June 2016.
23) Kingsley, M. “Effects of Phosphatidylserine Supplementation on Exercising Humans.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Sports Med., 2006. Web. June 2016.
24) Wang, R., H. Yan, and X. C. Tang. “Progress in Studies of Huperzine A, a Natural Cholinesterase Inhibitor from Chinese Herbal Medicine.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Acta Pharmacol Sin., Jan. 2006. Web. June 2016.
25) Li, J., et al. “Huperzine A for Alzheimer’s Disease.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Cochrane Database Syst Rev., Apr. 2008. Web. June 2016.
26) Sun, Q. Q. “Huperzine-A Capsules Enhance Memory and Learning Performance in 34 Pairs of Matched Adolescent Students.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Zhongguo Yao Li Xue Bao., July 1999. Web. June 2016.
27) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Huperzine-A – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web. June 2016.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.