By Al Sears, MD
Albert Einstein had only one thing different about his brain than the brain of everyday folks. I’m going to tell you what that is, and it has to do with the most common thing people worry about as they grow older.
In my experience with anti-aging medicine over the last 25 years, there have been plenty of things my patients worry about: looks, vision, strength, sexual potency, and so on.
But the hands down, number-one thing more people are concerned with over and above anything else is the decline of their brains.
The fogginess. Their loss of memory. The experience they have had with elders who can’t remember things. The struggle they’re having trying to keep the same level of mental energy and focus.
They feel mentally fatigued, and that bothers them more than any physical problem. And from what I’ve seen, as you get older, you’re very aware of it and desirous of something to help with memory, attention, motivation and mental focus.
So, what to do? How can you repair your aging brain, and get better as you get older?
One way is to give some extra support to a neglected part of the brain called the “glia.”
Brain researchers always thought of glial cells as neurons’ strange assistants. They believed neurons did all the signaling and all the “thinking.”
But new research shows that glial cells do a lot more than just take up half the space in your “gray matter.” Some act as your brain’s immune cells, some anchor neurons in place, and some clean up waste. Some even signal your immune system for help.
These cells use glioltransmitters to stimulate and fine tune the actions of your neurons. This gives you a faster, more accurate brain with less fogginess and better concentration.
Glia also enhance the brain activity that helps you soak up the world around you. For instance, if you were missing a kind of glial cell called oligodendrocytes, messages would travel through your brain 30 times slower!
And did you know that extra glial cells were the only thing scientists found that was different about Einstein’s brain? He had a lot more of them than most people do.
The best way to enhance this part of your brain is with a group of antioxidants that zero in on helping you sharpen your mind. And they have memory and even mood-enhancing properties.
New research into brain activity shows that flavonoids, the antioxidant nutrients that naturally occur in plants, have a special role in protecting your glial cells.
Flavonoids assist your hard-working glial cells in getting rid of free radicals and other brain-robbers that play the biggest role in:
- memory decline
- slowing of body movements
- mental fatigue
Here are four flavonoids that give your glial cells the most benefit, and help to protect and revitalize the biggest and most underappreciated part of your brain:
Red Wine Rescue
The American Cancer Society sponsored a study that showed the potent flavonoid apigenin was able to kill deadly glial brain cancer cells while at the same time protecting healthy cells.1
And in another study, apigenin not only protected animals against symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but those given apigenin had improved learning and memory capabilities, maintained the integrity of their brain cells, had better brain blood flow, reduced free-radical damage, and improved brain chemical transmission.2
The best sources are parsley, tomatoes, celery, artichokes, peppermint, and the herb basil. Red wine also has a good amount of this flavonoid.
Bees Make a Better Brain
Toxins and pollutants in the modern world assault your body all day with factors that cause inflammation. They can even hijack enzymes your body normally uses to protect your brain. Luteolin can stop this process cold.
In a brand new study, luteolin almost completely protected glial cells from free-radical damage and inflammation.3 It also improves memory and helps ease depression.
You can get each day’s supply of luteolin from celery, green peppers, the herb thyme, and in chamomile and yarrow teas. There’s also a unique source of luteolin… it’s from the resin bees use to make their honeycombs called propolis. You can find it in most health food stores.
Mango Powered Memory Boost
The natural extract from the leaves of the mango tree called mangiferin has been shown to be anti-tumor, can reduce pain, and helps protect against diabetes.
Many animal studies have also shown that mangiferin improves memory. And it protects against excitotoxins from the environment that can harm your brain.4
There is no mangiferin in the actual mango fruit. You must get the extract which is available from many Asian specialty stores and online sellers like 21food.com.
The Brain Berry
The little-known flavonoid called morin can kill cancer cells and protect the kidney from the effects of alcohol. It can also shield your neurons and those important glial cells I mentioned earlier called oligodendrocytes.
In a study from the journal Glia, researchers found that free-radical damage from inflammation was much higher in glial cells not protected with morin.5
Morin comes from the leaves of the guava tree, and from the fruit of a tree that grows on the American prairie called the Osage orange. But the most bio-available source is the delicious Chinese White Mulberry (which is actually very dark purple).
The End of “Senior Moments”?
1 Das, A., Banik, N.L., Ray, S.K., “Flavonoids activated caspases for apoptosis in human glioblastoma T98G and U87MG cells but not in human normal astrocytes,” Cancer Jan. 1, 2010;116(1):164-76
2 Liu, R., Zhang, T., Yang, H., et al, “The flavonoid apigenin protects brain neurovascular coupling against amyloid-Î²-induced toxicity in mice,” J. Alzheimers Dis. 2011;24(1):85-100
3 Zhu, L.H., Bi, W., Qi, R.B., et al, “Luteolin inhibits microglial inflammation and improves neuron survival against inflammation,” Int. J. Neurosci. June 2011;121(6):329-36
4 Lemus-Molina, Y., SÃ¡nchez-GÃ³mez, M.V., Delgado-HernÃ¡ndez, R., et al, “Mangifera indica L. extract attenuates glutamate-induced neurotoxicity on rat cortical neurons,” Neurotoxicology Nov. 2009;30(6):1053-8
5 Ibarretxe, G., SÃ¡nchez-GÃ³mez, M.V., Campos-Esparza, M.R., et al, “Differential oxidative stress in oligodendrocytes and neurons after excitotoxic insults and protection by natural polyphenols,”Glia Jan. 15, 2006;53(2):201-11
Written By: Updated: October 25,2011