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Abstract: We don’t always know what foods are good for our brain, which is why it is important to seek advice on nutrition for optimal brain function. Your diet affects your brain and the way it functions. What you eat will have a big influence on your mood, behaviour, thoughts, and emotions.

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Keywords: Brain food, brain nutrition, bacopa, brahmi, vitamin B1, folate, vitamin B12, zinc

Brain Food Your diet affects your brain and the way it functions. What you eat will have a big influence on your mood, behaviour, thoughts, and emotions. This is because our brain is made up of, and operates on, the same substances that are found in foods. Optimal brain function is dependent on adequate macronutrients, which include energy including carbohydrates, protein, and fats. A number of micronutrients, such as vitamins B1 and B12, folate, and zinc, also perform a critical role in maintaining brain health. While these nutrients are essential, Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), an increasingly popular natural herb, has also been shown to be very beneficial for brain and mental health.
Lifestyle Factors Your Brain

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All of our memories – the skills and experiences we have are the result of neurons communicating and establishing connections to each other. This process involves sending and receiving electrical signals which consumes a lot of energy. Unlike many of our other organs like the heart and the liver, the brain is unique in that it has a limited ability to burn fat to generate energy. Instead, our brain prefers to get its energy from glucose, which comes from the breakdown of complex carbohydrates and simple sugars. A steady supply of glucose is absolutely crucial in keeping our brain functioning properly. Our neurons are constantly communicating to each other and repairing themselves, even while we sleep. Since our brain cannot store much glucose, it is very important that it has a constant supply of glucose that it can obtain from the blood supply to the brain. Paradoxically, eating complex carbohydrates that take longer to break down to useable energy, rather than glucose or simple sugars like sucrose, are the best way to fuel our brain. Glucose and simple sugars are rapidly digested and released into the bloodstream, causing a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. This triggers our pancreas to secrete insulin, which lowers our blood sugar by stimulating our body organs to take up glucose, and store it for later use. That is, every organ except the brain, because our brain cannot store glucose. Effectively, this means that very little of the glucose and simple sugars you eat will be available to your brain. By contrast, complex carbohydrates, which are made up of long chains of glucose and other simple sugars, must be digested or broken down before the body can utilise them for energy use. This takes time, therefore glucose is gradually released into the bloodstream. Many foods containing complex carbohydrates also contain fibre, which further slows digestion and more steadily maintains blood sugar levels within the body.

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Foods: Fruit, milk and milk products are comparatively high in simple natural sugars. Peas, beans, whole grains, vegetables, potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread are comparatively high in complex sugars.


Our brains are made up of mostly fat, around two-thirds of the brain. In the brain, fats are primarily used as a raw material to build the unique structures of neurons, or nerve cells. The myelin coating around our neurons, which prevents “short circuits” and speeds up electrical signal transmission, is mainly composed of fat. A particular type of fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has recently attracted much publicity due to the positive research findings of DHA benefits on our health. DHA is a type of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, and is present in high concentrations in the brain. It is found within the neuronal membrane and myelin, so it will influence how our neurons communicate with each other. DHA also protects our neurons from oxygen free radical damage as we get older. There are many studies that have found that low levels of omega-3 may be linked to mental conditions such as attention deficit-hyperactive disorder (ADHD), depression, schizophrenia, and dementia. Other studies have indicated the beneficial effects of dietary omega-3 supplementation on these mental illnesses, as well as improving intelligence, especially in children. The initial research looks promising, and larger studies are being designed to further confirm the beneficial results seen so far. Oily fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel are packed full of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.

Foods: Flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, avocados, and fish, are comparatively high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Protein is required for all areas of the body, importantly for brain structure and function. Protein, made up of amino acids, are the “building blocks” of many materials and structures common to all cells in the body, including neurons. Also, amino acids are required by the brain to produce the neurotransmitter chemicals that relay signals from neuron to

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disorientation. can give us all the different types of protein we need. including the hippocampus which regulates memory function [2].Max Biocare :: Brain Health Products & Information | Brain Food http://www. 2 of 3 29/02/2012 18:37 . The difference is that animal foods. It seems that the use of Brahmi in Ayuvedic medicine as a brain tonic is justified. is an herb which has traditionally been used in Indian “Ayurvedic” medicine for more than 3. It has been suggested that people with depression would benefit from both vitamin B12 and folate supplementation [13]. Many people have less than optimal vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B9: Folate (Folic acid) The health benefits of folate. Different from other vitamins. Foods: Whey. beans (particularly soy and kidney). aids neuron repair. and depression as neurons may lose their function and die. maintaining our genetic materials. and is essential for proper brain function. Therefore. folate is beneficial for other neurological reasons such as brain health and function. lean meats (especially pork).com/brain-food. if you are a vegetarian or vegan. Beriberi is common in many Asian countries. wheat bran. Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) Vitamin B12 has long been known to be important for maintaining a healthy brain and brain function. and for our body to make haemoglobin. Severe vitamin B1 deficiency can result in a condition called beriberi. known as Brahmi. causing neurological problems. vitamin B12 contains a metal (cobalt). you need to make sure that you include a variety of foods to get all the different forms of proteins that your brain needs. Ayurvedic medicine describes Brahmi as a brain tonic that improves one’s ability to think and reason. protein malnutrition amongst children is common. seafood. called bacosides. Vitamin B12 supplementation has also been shown to improve memory. how does it work. are comparatively high in Vitamin B1. Brahmi has also been shown to have antioxidant effects in specific areas of the brain. whole grains. Protein is essential in the diet for brain and mental health. Working together with folic acid (folate). vitamin B1 is involved in glucose metabolism. In the brain. Vegetarians need to ensure they actively seek out this vitamin as it is not highly prevalent in the vegetarian diet. eggs. Brain Herb: Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi) Bacopa monnieri. while another study showed the positive effects of Brahmi on depression [5]. leading to pain and weakness in the arms and legs. however not all people consume these foods so it remains important to actively seek folate for healthy nutrition. and low levels of folate are strongly associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease [10]. pasta. Not enough vitamin B1 in your diet can cause a variety of health problems. and confusion. has been shown to enhance alertness. are numerous and substantial. Brahmi has also been suggested to provide relief from stress [7]. which probably reflects how closely these two nutrients work together normally. Both animal and plant foods can give you proteins. more serious signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include numbness and tingling of the arms and legs. Another beneficial effect of Brahmi is its potent anti-inflammatory properties [3]. Therefore. and has caused a considerable amount of health problems. dementia. Originally given to infants in order to “open the gateway to intelligence”. and meat are comparatively high in healthy proteins. especially in younger people [14]. the oxygen-carrying protein in our red blood cells. It has long been thought that Brahmi reduces anxiety. People with Alzheimer’s have also been noted to have significantly lower levels of vitamin B1 [8]. For example tyrosine. rye. Brahmi’s bacosides enhances nerve impulse activity and neurotransmission within the brain. an essential amino acid. and soybeans. egg. A mild deficiency in vitamin B12 is often not obvious. memory problems. So. and supports new neuron growth [1]. because glucose is the preferred source of energy for neurons. many involving the brain.html neuron. In less developed countries. However. concentration and memory functions of the brain. and what are the benefits of taking Brahmi? The main pharmacologically active ingredients of Brahmi are saponins.000 years. Warning signs of vitamin B1 deficiency include nausea. All of these qualities of Brahmi provide for the basis behind the positive results seen in clinical trials. soy. and loss of appetite. Known to be important for pregnant women in preventing foetal neural tube defects such as spina bifida. cereals. Foods: fortified breads. However. Pregnant women do require a higher level of folate and are recommended to take 400mcg per day leading up to birth. and dairy. Many foods such as breakfast cereals have become fortified with folate. Folate supplementation helps to improve memory performance [9]. Vitamin B1 (thiamin) Vitamin B1 is required for energy generation by the body. It has recently been recommended that people take 2mg of folate per day for the maintenance and treatment of depression [12]. peas. fish. Beriberi is also a common problem in chronic alcoholics. Foods: yeast. dried beans. folate is important for a healthy brain and brain function. memory loss. while improving memory and learning. many of the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are also seen in folic acid deficiency. Brahmi has rapidly become popular and in high demand around the world for these reasons. however many others with a limited diet also do not obtain the amount of folate that they require. particularly on brain development and function. A recent study has demonstrated the beneficial effects of Brahmi on reducing the harmful substances within the brain that causes plaques in Alzheimer’s disease [4]. with 56% of middle-aged men being vitamin B12 deficient. vitamin B12 is needed to break down fats and proteins. difficulty walking. and is by far the largest and most complex of all vitamins. It is these active constituents within Brahmi that promotes brain health and function. vitamin B1 is essential for maintaining brain nutrition. and studies show that folate is effective as an additive with currently used antidepressant pharmaceuticals [11]. Additional benefits of Brahmi on brain and mental health are likely to be uncovered. such as meat. Interestingly. loss of appetite.brainhealth-central. Depression has been correlated with low levels of folate. These properties are now supported by evidence from recent clinical trials [6]. and some nuts are comparatively high in folate. and cannot function without regular intake. Brahmi has gained more recent scientific support for its beneficial effects on the brain and learning.

Aksu. (2000). pp1345-1356. and being deficient in zinc can cause mental insufficiencies. Licastro. Anjum. Volume 132(6). Clarke. Anti-inflammatory activity of Bacopa monniera in rodents. Dar. D. EG. F. (2006). Kok. 4. Palit. pp39-42. Psychopharmacology. 5. Double-blind. nuts. Hughes. Volume 156. 12. zinc is involved in neuron electrical transduction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Journal of Alzheimers Disease. Yildirim. Dorababu. Lloyd. Volume 52(11). S. G. pp1143-1147. 9. S. D. (2006). M. Antioxidant activity of Bacopa monniera in rat frontal cortex. Role of Levenson. M. adolescents and pregnant women. Bilici. (2007). Volume 104(1-2). red meat. pp1081-6. H. whole grains. and supplementation with zinc has been shown to have positive effects on depressive symptoms [17]. E. MB. Channa. pp174-9. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 61(3). double blind. Stough. CW. Porcellini. are comparatively high in zinc. Atta-Ur-Rahman. 15. Homocysteine dementia and folate as risk factors for and Alzheimer disease. pp208-216. Bryan. DeÄŸer. J. Volume 28(1). Holcomb. controlled trial. Volume 111(3). S. pp1432-1436. 2. milk. Manyam. F. (2006). N. Ghosal. Volume 9(3). Nathan. P. pp285-287. Enhancement of the antidepressant action of fluoxetine by folic acid: a randomised. Lancet. Abou-Saleh. Sheikh. children. Gold. 18. pp636-643. striatum hippocampus. A. G. van Boxtel. Johnson. and many processes in the brain. AR. 10. Zinc has also been shown to be effective for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [18].com/brain-food. Siripurapu. Short-term folate. SK.brainhealth-central. (2006). BekaroÄŸlu. Volume 9(3). 17. Riggs. Bhattacharya. A. Plasma of Neurology. Brunetti. Ravaglia. Neuropsychopharmacological effects of the Ayurvedic nootropic Bacopa monniera Linn. and red blood cell thiamine deficiency in patients with dementia of the Alzheimer's type. Chen. LA. BL. T. Coppen. S. Dhanasekaran. KB. FJ. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: a randomised. A. J. Foods: oysters. VK. Bhattacharya. BN (1997). (2004). Archives Durga. Verhoef. pp59-65. M. (2001). pp359-365. YildirmiÅŸ. Bailey. O. SK (2002). Singh. Zinc Zinc is an essential mineral in the diet responsible for many chemical reactions creating energy for metabolism. A. Ahmad. Journal of Nutrition.. pp286-9. Dudek. Dhawan. pp243-251. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Volume14(3). pp671-6. Kandil. E. A. M. Bacopa monniera extract reduces amyloid levels in PSAPP mice. RK. fortified breakfast cereals. Volume 130(5S Suppl). (2007). vitamin B-12 or vitamin B-6 supplementation slightly affects memory performance but not mood in women of various ages. MF. poultry. Bhattacharya. A. Maioli. 8. P. Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry. meat. MP.Max Biocare :: Brain Health Products & Information | Brain Food http://www. zinc in plasma membrane function. Kuchibhotla. Pilc. (2002).. Yildiran. Volume 55(6). M. It is believed that zinc can improve attention and memory. 7. Servadei. Coppen. Siwek. Young. J. 16. and almost anything of animal origin are comparatively high in vitamin B12. Phytotherapy Research.Powered by Max Biocare 3 of 3 29/02/2012 18:37 . G. Zinc is especially important for growth and protein synthesis in infants. placebo controlled trial. About Us | Contact Us | Our Websites | Member Login | Site Search | Sitemap | Conditions of Use © PharmaMetics Products 2008 . cheese and eggs. C. Folic acid Volume 19(1). Sairam. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.html Foods: liver. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. M. C. F. Effect of zinc supplementation on antidepressant therapy in unipolar depression: a O'Dell. M. A. LA. Journal of Affective Disorders. HK. Polish Journal of Pharmacology. It even improves our sense of taste! Zinc is therefore very important component in our diet. L. M. Downey. pp207-211. The Journal of Nutrition. Effect of Bacopa monniera on stress induced changes in plasma and brain monoamines in rats. Hutchison. 3. Volume 369(9557). Volume 60(2). People with depression have low levels of zinc [16]. 14. Volume 29. Yaqoob. Jolles. Schouten. (2003). Zieba. Coppen. MT. KA. (Brahmi). pp481-484. K. (1995). Ulgen. A. A. 11. pp121-130. preliminary placebo-controlled study. (2005). CW. 6. Bolander-Gouaille. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. beans. J. Martelli. (2000). More specifically for brain and mental function. S. Zinc: the new antidepressant? Nutrition Reviews. S. Kumar. Katan. (2005). Goel. Forti. and the treatment of depression. M. The beneficial effects of zinc on brain and mental health are many and various.. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in corticosterone and healthy human subjects. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the brain and performs an important protective role against oxidative damage and impaired function of neurons [15]. Volume 64(1). pp181-190. M. J. Phytomedicine. Nowak. (2000). Calvaresi. References: 1. placebo-controlled study of zinc sulfate in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 13. N. K. BV. Hitt.. Antidepressant activity of standardized extract of Bacopa monniera in experimental models of depression in rats. A. and dairy products. Rodgers. PJ. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Volume 82(3). J. Singh.

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