Antioxidants To Protect Against Memory Loss and Cognitive Decline, Part 1 of 2

If free radicals get out of control, cells are damaged faster than they are repaired. Like a biological form of rust, a lifetime of oxidative stress can lead to diminished brain function.

Mark Becker

February 14, 2017

8 Min Read
Antioxidants To Protect Against Memory Loss and Cognitive Decline, Part 1 of 2

Of all the resources people rely on to navigate their lives, the one taken most for granted is also the one that is relied on the most—memory.

Did you know 50 percent of Americans over 65 years are unable to recall even simple names and numbers because of common age-related memory loss? As you get older, blood vessels in the brain may narrow, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. This creates energy shortages in the brain and may cause:

  • Mild memory problems associated with aging

  • Diminished concentration

  • Mood swings

  • Decreased mental energy

Age-related mental decline and memory problems can be also caused by factors including harmful free radicals. These highly reactive forms of oxygen create a chemical reaction called oxidative stress which can damage brain cells. If free radicals get out of control, cells are damaged faster than they are repaired. Like a biological form of rust, a lifetime of oxidative stress can lead to diminished brain function.

Free radicals can not only assault us internally, but they can wreak havoc from the outside, as well, primarily through the skin and lungs. Today’s modern industrial environment in concert with the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays produce free radicals. Many are unaware that in the presence of heat and sunlight, ozone forms quickly from nitrogen oxides in polluted air and volatile organic compounds from vehicle exhaust. Ozone is a highly reactive gas and the main component of smog, which is a key contributor in the formation of free radicals. This is the perfect storm for oxidative stress.

Additionally, chemical pesticides, herbicides, and petrochemical paints and solvents are also sources of free radical exposure. Moreover, when people eat fats processed at high temperatures or fats that are deep-fried, they are consuming foods that add to the free radical load. And don’t forget tobacco of all kinds is a major producer of free radicals.

10 Antioxidants for Cognitive Health

Where would we be without our intellect, imagination and creativity? How would we survive without memory, intuition or the ability to reason? Consumers rely on these mental faculties every day, so what happens when the necessary steps to promote mental clarity and cognitive health aren’t taken? 

Mental clarity can improve memory, help manage stress, and make consumers more efficient and productive. Mental clarity will help with job performance; learning and retaining information; solving complex problems; and promoting relaxation. Is true mental clarity this elusive phenomena or something that is realistic to obtain? Well, there is good news. You can have mental clarity and have it soon.

Evidence is mounting that cumulative oxidative damage to brain cells causes fuzzy memory, slow learning, and the loss of coordination that is often seen with aging. In fact, according to, almost one in seven U.S. adults aged 71 years and older have dementia and that oxidative stress is a one of the key contributors to this staggering statistic. Moreover, Alzheimer's disease begins with oxidative stress long before any symptoms arise.

That said, people need to include antioxidant-rich foods and supplements into their diets because they are powerful at decreasing the damage caused by free radicals. Suppliers and marketers should consider the following antioxidant ingredients, among others, when formulating products that support brain function and memory:

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): This powerful antioxidant is both water and fat soluble and enters all parts of the cell to neutralize free radicals. It is the only antioxidant supplement that can easily access the brain. There is some evidence that it is useful in the prevention of strokes.

Ashwaganda: A versatile adaptogen that can enhance the immune system, boost energy, calm the stress response, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It can also enhance memory and mental acuity due to its antioxidant effect and has the ability to increase acetylcholine-receptor activity.

CoQ10: A part of the mitochondrial electron transport system and synthesized in all cells, CoQ10 is essential to the body’s production of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Aging reduces access to CoQ10. Although it can be obtained from the diet (mainly from fatty fish, organ meats and whole grains), as well as synthesized in small amounts, both of these routes decline with age. The body’s declining capacity to extract and assimilate CoQ10 in later years plays a role in the development of various disease conditions. Ubiquinol is the reduced form of CoQ10 and the most highly absorbed. It is directly used in human metabolism as a lipid-soluble antioxidant. While standard CoQ10 (ubiquinone) supplements can be converted into ubiquinol in the body, this conversion can be less efficient in some individuals, based on age, genetics, blood sugar status or level of oxidative stress. Ubiquinol promotes optimal cognitive function. The brain is extremely metabolically active. CoQ10 helps neurons make more energy. When neurons make more energy better brain function occurs.

Curcumin: The active ingredient in turmeric, researchers believe it may help reduce the plaque formation that is associated with Alzheimer ’s disease. The fact that India produces nearly all of the world’s turmeric (and consumes 80 percent of it) probably explains why many inflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are not as prevalent in that country. In fact, India has one of the lowest Alzheimer’s rates in the world. People who are born in India and move to Western countries do not enjoy the same low rates of Alzheimer’s. Researchers believe the traditional Indian diet, which contains large amounts of turmeric, plays a significant role in disease prevention.

Fish Oil: The mainstream media has been reporting on the benefits of fish oil for years—typically for heart health. Now there is research to suggest that fish oil may be good for the brain, as well. Recent research suggests fish oil supplements may affect parts of the brain critical for memory. In fact, three new human studies add to an impressive body of research regarding the value of EPA- and DHA-containing fish oil for mental health and cognitive function. DHA, in particular, is considered the most biological active oil for your brain, as it is the primary fatty acid that accumulates in brain cells. 

Ginkgo Biloba (Leaf) Extract: Has been shown to enhance cognition by supporting and enhancing the function of neural tissue. Ginkgo also protects neurons from damage, as well as regenerates neurons.

Grapeseed Extract: A significant source of naturally occurring phenolic compounds that are known to bolster the structural integrity of brain cells and brain cell networks. A recent study shows the ability of grapeseed extract to stimulate the production of new brain cells. Researchers were able to show that compounds in grapeseed extract activated genes that controlled cellular rejuvenation. Additionally, grapeseed extract strengthened existing brain cell connections in the memory control center of the brain (hippocampus).

N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC): A precursor of glutathione, a significant antioxidant and a key detoxifying agent in the liver. Research suggests NAC levels may drop with age, which could lead to oxidative stress within brain cells, a conspicuous suspect in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Phosphatidylserine (PS): A phospholipid substance which is a building block for the brain’s approximately 100 billion nerve cells. Of the nutrients proven most beneficial to the brain, PS is the most impressive for its degree of efficacy and its impeccable safety record. More than 60 human studies, including 18 double-blind trials, affirm diverse benefits of PS for memory, learning, concentration, word recall, and other cognitive measures in the middle-aged and elderly.

Rhodiola: Stimulates both mental and physical performance. Its effects on the brain are perhaps the most interesting. Numerous studies have shown it to improve concentration, especially in tired individuals. In one proofreading test, those taking rhodiola decreased their number of errors by 88 percent. It also helps the brain produce serotonin, which is a key “happy" neurotransmitter. In one study, 128 people suffering from depression were given 200 mg of rhodiola. Two-thirds of the patients (65 percent) had major reduction or complete disappearance of their symptoms.

Vinpocetine: Selectively dilates the arteries and capillaries in the head area, reducing vascular resistance, improving cell production of ATP, and promoting better circulation to the brain. By increasing circulation, it allows for improved nutrient and oxygen delivery to brain cells.

Stay tuned—tomorrow I will explore new research on caffeine and its potential effects on memory.

Mark Becker is an account manager for Vivion, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, California. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 20 years. Mark has written more than 300 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his Master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, access or

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