November marks a BIG month for brain health! We observe National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month as well as Veterans Day, which bring to light some fairly alarming brain health statistics. Currently, an estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s, according to the latest information from the Alzheimer’s Association. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its correlated symptoms affect hundreds of thousands of veterans. The Brain Trauma Foundation reports that based on existing data, veterans’ advocates believe that between 10-20% of Iraq veterans, or 150,000 and 300,000 people, have some level of TBI. Among wounded troops, the rate of TBI rises to 33%!
While no cure yet exists for Alzheimer’s, and cases of TBI can only be managed, there are ways to support brain health, naturally. We can let Alzheimer’s and the prevalence of TBI among our veterans be reminders to us all that it’s critical to be proactive in caring for our brains. Let’s not forget that our brain is the control center of our body—and to a large extent, the determinant of our individual well-being!
The Little Known Standout Brain Health Supplement
While getting plenty of nutrient-rich whole foods in your diet is extremely important for brain health, there are standout nutritional supplements that are showing promising results in scientific research. While many have heard of the blood flow and memory support herb Ginkgo biloba, a lesser-known supplement called acetyl l-carnitine is also showing promise in research studies—and it’s worth your attention.
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) is an amino acid that’s produced naturally in the body and helps the body produce energy. However, it is also a powerful antioxidant and can cross the blood-brain barrier where it plays a role in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine as well as supports healthy blood flow to the brain.
ALCAR’s role in supporting healthy acetylcholine levels in the brain makes all the difference. That’s because acetylcholine is integral to healthy memory, learning, computation, analysis, perception and a host of other cognitive functions. Increased acetylcholine levels can translate to increased synaptic flexibility and memory formation, which are both indicative of healthy brain function.
Nice in theory, but let’s take a look at some of the research.
One promising study examined aged subjects that supplemented with ALCAR over a course of time. The researchers observed increased acetylcholine levels as well as indications of increased synaptic transmission and improved learning capacity after supplementation.
While ALCAR supports healthy acetylcholine levels, it’s believed that its antioxidant activity benefits the brain as well by helping to reduce the signs of oxidative stress and helping to remove toxins from the brain.
One study, conducted by Dr. Daniel Amen and a team of researchers that was published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, examined the results of an outpatient protocol designed to help improve brain function in retired NFL players with brain injuries. While only a component of the entire program, the participants were given a daily brain-directed nutritional supplement containing acetyl l-carnitine. Overall results showed improvements in the majority of participants.
If you are looking to support your brain health, a supplement containing ALCAR appears to be a great way to go. Of course, before taking any new supplement, it’s strongly advised that you consult your medical doctor.
Here’s to taking steps to protect your brain health!
White, HL, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine as a precursor of acetylcholine. Neurochem Res. 1990 Jun;15(6):597-601.
Kobayashi, S, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine improves aged brain function. Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2010 Jul;10 Suppl 1:S99-106.
Gavrilova, SI, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine (carnicetine) in the treatment of early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 2011;111(9):16-22.
Zhou, P. et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine attenuates homocysteine-induced Alzheimer-like histopathological and behavioral abnormalities. Rejuvenation Res. 2011 Dec;14(6):669-79.
Goo, MJ, et al. Protective effects of acetyl-L-carnitine on neurodegenarative changes in chronic cerebral ischemia models and learning-memory impairment in aged rats. Arch Pharm Res. 2012 Jan;35(1):145-54.
Jiang, X, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine ameliorates spatial memory deficits induced by inhibition of phosphoinositol-3 kinase and protein kinase C. J Neurochem. 2011 Sep;118(5):864-78.
Amen, DG, et al. Reversing brain damage in former NFL players: implications for traumatic brain injury and substance abuse rehabilitation. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2011 Jan-Mar;43(1):1-5.
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