Capable of thinking, reasoning, remembering, and more, the human brain is what distinguishes people from animals. In terms of organs, the brain is our best asset, which is why taking care of it is so important. When it comes to natural protection for the brain, "antioxidant" is a term that comes up often, but many people don't understand what antioxidants do and where to find them. This guide to antioxidants and brain health may shed light on these powerful natural compounds, where to find them, and how they impact brain health.
To understand the benefits of antioxidants, it helps to know about free radicals. Byproducts of normal body processes and environmental influences like smoking and pollution, free radicals are unstable molecules that scavenge other molecules. While some free radicals that destroy viruses and harmful bacteria prove beneficial to the health, too many free radicals can cause disease and promote aging in any area of the body including the brain. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, and three in particular offer excellent benefits for the brain.
A review study published in The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry examined prior cellular, animal, and human research for the effects of berries on brain health. The researchers concluded that flavonoids found in berries protect cells from free radical damage and change the way neurons communicate in the brain. This helps prevent inflammation that can lead to neuron damage and enhances cognition and motor control.
A potent ingredient found in the spice turmeric, curcumin packs a number of important health benefits including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why it has been investigated for its effect on neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease. Animal studies show treatment with curcumin lessens the effects of glutathione depletion, a condition associated with early Parkinson's disease. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant made by the body, and depletion leads to oxidative stress and an overabundance of free radicals.
Lipoic Acid or Alpha-Lipoic Acid
When it comes to antioxidants and brain health, lipoic acid makes a powerful protector for several reasons. It passes freely through the blood-brain barrier, and it destroys free radicals. It also helps regenerate vitamin C and vitamin E, two antioxidants that become compromised when fighting free radicals. People can obtain lipoic acid through foods like spinach and broccoli or take the synthetic version alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) as a supplement.
Research on very old mice treated with ALA showed reduced oxidative stress and improved learning and memory. Humans with Alzheimer's disease who were treated with a combination of ALA and omega-fatty acids showed less cognitive and functional decline than subjects treated with placebo.
People who learn about antioxidants and brain health take the first step toward keeping the mind active and healthy well into the golden years. Food and supplements containing potent antioxidants help keep inflammation, oxidative stress, and free radicals at bay for sharper focus, quicker thinking, and better memory.