THE NITTY GRITTYMaintaining the health, wellness, and optimal functioning of your brain is essential if you are to remain capable of carrying out the many complex activities of human life in its most evolved state. One of the keys to this is neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that relay messages between nerve cells throughout your body. They are produced by the conversion of amino acids in the presence of essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins and magnesium. One of the amino acids critical to neurotransmitter production is taurine. It is found in highest concentration in the heart and brain. Taurine controls the electric charge across cell membranes and is essential for the function of nerve impulses. It has also been shown to have anti-anxiety properties.1-3 Glycine is another amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter affecting the spinal cord and brain stem primarily. The brain stem is home to, among other brain sections, the medulla oblongata, the part of the brain responsible for breathing, digestion, cardiovascular function, and sleep. B vitamins support the conversion of these (and other) amino acids into neurotransmitters, most notably B6 and B12. In fact, B12 deficiency has even been associated with impaired cognitive function4, while B12 and folic acid supplementation has been shown to improve cognition and memory.5-6 Similarly, research has shown that B3 (niacin) deficiency is linked to memory issues and brain function7, while B2 (riboflavin) - in conjunction with magnesium - both prevents and treats headaches and migraine.8-10 In addition to supporting neurotransmitter production and easing headache pain, magnesium has brain health benefits in its own right. Research shows that magnesium supplementation supports short- and long-term memory.11 Two other minerals - selenium and zinc - are also crucial for brain health. In addition to having antioxidant properties and supporting the metabolic activity of more than 300 enzymes, these two minerals have also been found to restore optimum lipid levels in the brain.12 This is important, as brain lipids not only play a structural role but also a functional one, namely in transmitting signals across biological membranes.13 Another antioxidant, glutathione, helps reduce oxidative stress in the brain specifically.14 Additional research also shows that glutathione deficiency is associated with cognitive decline.15 Finally, GPC has been shown to improve memory and learning.16-17 It’s so useful that it is prescribed as a medication in Europe for brain health. Here is the U.S. it is only available in supplement form.
References: 1. Zhang CG and Kim SJ. Annals of Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):379-86. 2. Chen SW, et al. Life Sci. 2004;75(12):1503-11. 3. Kong WX, et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2006 Feb;83(2):271-6. 4. Michelakos T, et al. J Aging Health. 2013;25(4):589-616. 5. Walker JG, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan;95(1):194-203. 6. Hooshmand B, et al. J Intern Med. 2012 Feb;271(2):204-12. 7. Morris MC, et al. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;75(8):1093-9. 8. Boehnke C, et al. Eur J Neurol. 2004 Jul;11(7):475-7. 9. Pringsheim T, et al. Can J Neurol Sci. 2012 Mar;39(2 Suppl 2): S1-59. 10. Gaul C, et al. J Headache Pain. 2015 Dec;16(1):516. 11. Slutsky I, et al. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77. 12. Adabayo OL, et al. Dev Neurosci. 2016;38(6):397-406. 13. Agranoff BW, et al. Properties of Brain Lipids. In: Siegel GJ et al., editors. Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular, and Medical Aspects. 6th edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven. 1999. 14. Dringer R and Hirrlinger J. Biol Chem. 2003 Apr;384(4):505-16. 15. Mandal PK, et al. Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Nov 15;78(10):702-10. 16. Morena MDM. Clin Ther 2003;25:178-93. 17. Canal N, et al. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1991;29:103-7.