After writing my first article on multivitamins titled The Best and Worst Multivitamins and How to Design Your Own, I received requests for both an article on multivitamins for seniors and for prenatal vitamins. Neither of these are an easy feat because it is impossible to get everything you need in one pill. But I am also up to a challenge to help people simplify their search by knowing what to look for.
If you are interested in learning more details about multivitamins, I recommend reading my first article on multivitamins. Or if you just want to know the best and worst multivitamins for seniors, scroll right to the bottom. But for this article, I’m going to give you a roadmap for understanding what you need to know to prevent many of the disorders linked to aging, and how you can make informed decisions about your diet and supplementation.
The Baby Boomers
You may be surprised to learn that a senior citizen starts at age 60. I think the perception of this age has changed quite a bit in one generation, and 60 is starting to seem much younger. So in respect to my parents (who are 70 and 72) who hate the term “senior citizens,” I will refer to the group as the “older generations.”
The first year of the baby boomers turned 70 this year. Many of the people in this generation grew up with parents that smoked, drank too much, embraced margarine/vegetable oils, white bread, and sugar, and experienced a lot of cardiovascular disease. The baby boomers learned from their parent’s mistakes, for the most part. By simply dropping the smoking and margarine habit alone from the previous generation, they dropped the risk of cardiovascular disease considerably.
You hear a lot of negative statistics about the rates of disease as we age. The fact of the matter is that many of these diseases are not destined by fate or genetics, but actions. According to the CDC, heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis are the most common and costly and preventable of all health problems. What isn’t on this list is Alzheimer’s and dementia, which I believe can also be explained as a preventable.
Prescription Drugs Contributing to Cognitive Decline
According to the Harvard Center of Ethics, prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death, tied with a stroke. Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth-leading cause of death for those age 65 and older. I find it interesting that we focus a lot of attention of finding a cure to Alzheimer’s and dementia, yet very little attention is focused on the drugs that may be majorly contributing to cognitive decline in the first place.
In the book Drug Muggers and Supplement Your Prescription, you can look up what nutrients your drugs are depleting. In certain cases, your medications may be causing memory and other health disorders due to these depletions and toxicities.
- According to WebMD, possible drugs that can cause memory loss include antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery.
- According to the CDC, the most frequently prescribed therapeutic classes include analgesics (pain killers), antihyperlipidemic agents (Statins) and antidepressants.
Interesting yes? Let’s not forget Statins which should also be on this memory list.
1. Anticholinergic drugs
These include nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, antidepressants, incontinence drugs and narcotic pain relievers. They block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, the one that requires choline.
One study from the British Medical Journal looked at the use of anticholinergic drugs (nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, antidepressants, incontinence drugs and narcotic pain relievers) and tested 372 people over 60 years old without dementia. A total of 9.2% of the subjects continually used anticholinergic drugs during the year before cognitive assessment. Compared with non-users, they had poorer performance on reaction time, attention, delayed non-verbal memory, narrative recall, visuospatial construction, and language tasks. Eighty percent of the continuous users were classified as having mild cognitive impairment. Another study found a significantly higher rate of falls in elderly patients using anticholinergic drugs as well.
A french study looking at 4,128 women and 2,784 men that reported taking anticholinergic drugs showed a greater decline over four years in verbal fluency scores and in global cognitive functioning than women not using anticholinergic drugs. In men, an association was found with a decline in visual memory and to a lesser extent in executive function. Significant interactions were observed in women between anticholinergic use and age, apolipoprotein E, or hormone replacement therapy. A significantly 1.4–2 fold higher risk of cognitive decline was observed for continuous anticholinergic users.
One study bred mice to have dementia and poor memories with low brain acetylcholine concentration. The administration of phosphatidylcholine to mice with dementia improved memory, showing the link to acetylcholine.
Approximately 90 percent of Americans do not get enough choline. Now imagine you are 65 or older, taking a PPI, sleep aid, and a Statin. That spells trouble.
2. Proton Pump Inhibitors
Deficiencies in vitamin B1 and B12 specifically can affect memory. How is this related to PPI’s? PPI’s block 99% of stomach acid, which is needed for B12 absorption, calcium, magnesium and numerous other vitamins and minerals. These drugs also increase the risk of disturbing valuable gut flora. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that German researchers looking at participants 75 years of age or older and free of dementia receiving regular PPI medication had a significantly increased risk of incident dementia compared with the patients not receiving PPI medication.
A study published in 2010 found that people with Alzheimer’s have low levels of SAMe in their brains. B12 in the form of methylcobalamin (not cyanocobalamin), helps produce more SAMe along with magnesium.
3. Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax, Lexomil, Ativan, Klonopin, Restoril)
Benzodiazepines are in the class of anti-anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorder medications and deplete biotin, folate, vitamin D and vitamin K. These are actually intended to only be used for a short time however some people may use them long term. In a study from the British Medical Journal, benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The stronger association observed for long-term exposures reinforces the suspicion of a possible direct association. According to researchers “unwarranted long-term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.”
As of August 31st, 2016, the FDA sent out a press announcement issuing boxed warnings (the highest strongest warning) to combining prescription opioid analgesics, opioid-containing cough products and benzodiazepines due to the risk of death. According to the FDA Commissioner Robert Califf M.D., “It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together.”
4. Statin Drugs
Crestor is the second highest prescribed drug at 21.4 million per month. As men and women age, cholesterol naturally goes up. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your digestive system requires cholesterol to prevent infection, your hormones requires cholesterol as starting material, and your memory requires cholesterol to function. The reduction of cholesterol and increase of blood sugar by Statin drugs is most likely the reason the memory is affected, as reported by the FDA.
We know that with diabetes, the cells become resistant to insulin causing the pancreas to increase the amount of insulin released. What people may not know, is that in Alzheimer’s the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and personality also becomes resistant to insulin. Insulin is made in the brain in a similar way that it is made in the pancreas. In fact, insulin is responsible for helping build neurotransmitters and the tasks involved with learning and memory. Some researchers are now referring to Alzheimer’s disease as “type 3 diabetes.” Diabetics actually have up to a 65% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a nearly 50 percent increase in diabetes among longtime statin users. A 2011 analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association and a 2010 analysis in The Lancet also found a higher risk of diabetes among those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.
So essentially the impression is that cholesterol is a bigger risk factor than diabetes for heart disease, which is wrong. I highly recommend reading the article How to Interpret Your Cardiovascular Blood Work in 5 Easy Steps to learn about cholesterol numbers and more significant risk factors.
5. Lithium Deficiency
While lithium is a natural element and not a prescription drug, I think the research on lithium is worth noting in this section. Patients with mood disorders have been shown to have rates of dementia higher than those of the general population. Researchers found that continued lithium treatment was associated with a reduction of the rate of dementia to the same level as that for the general population and can actually be neuroprotective or even enhance the growth of neurons. Lithium is also a B12 carrier, so a combination deficiency of lithium and B12 would really affect brain health.
According to Dr. Nassir Ghaemi, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, “Lithium is, by far, the most proven drug to keep neurons alive, in animals and in humans, consistently and with many replicated studies. If lithium prevents dementia, then we may have overlooked a very simple means of preventing a major public health problem.”
What’s an easy way to get lithium? Add Concentrace Mineral Drops to your drinking water.
Addressing the Nutritional Needs of the Older Generations
Hippocrates once said, “all diseases begin in the gut.” According to the Journal of Clinical Nutrition “elderly persons who malabsorb macronutrients do so because of disease, not because of age.”
The malabsorption of micronutrients like B12 in the elderly is actually due to the high prevalence of atrophic gastritis, related to H. Pylori and low stomach acid. How many older people are on acid blockers for acid reflux! Acid reflux occurs from low stomach acid, not too much. Chronic gut inflammation is also due to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Aspirin, Tylenol etc.) accounting for the large majority of peptic ulcer disease. Nutrients whose absorption have been shown to be affected by low acid conditions in the stomach include folate, vitamin B-12, calcium, iron, and beta-carotene.
It has been shown that elderly persons (excuse me, older generation) with atrophic gastritis severely malabsorb folate, and can be corrected by administering folate along with hydrochloric acid. B12 supplementation is also superior for absorption over food for those with low stomach acid. B12 deficiency is even more pronounced in those with digestive disorders, gene variants in FUT2 and GIF, or those taking medications like proton pump inhibitors and Metformin.
Decreased skin synthesis of vitamin D, vitamin D absorption, vitamin D receptors in the intestinal epithelial cell and conversion to the active form of vitamin D have all been observed in the elderly. Vitamin A absorption actually increases, lowering the requirement for vitamin A. This could explain the osteoporosis study I explored here and why high vitamin A intake was correlated to osteoporosis.
The older generation have an increased vitamin B-6 requirement compared with younger people. A study done in 1990 found that in the United States that of 11,658 people, 91% of women and 71% percent of men were deficient in vitamin B-6 using the RDA, and 1 in 10 of the elderly in the US and Europe have been defined as deficient.
CoQ10 is the antioxidant energy molecule of the mitochondria, protects cell membranes and the oxidation of LDL. Production has been found to peak at age 20 and decrease as we age. Low CoQ10 causes low energy and accelerated aging. Statin drugs inhibit CoQ10 production. However, the production of CoQ10 can be encouraged. It can be boosted with exercise and vitamin B1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin C, manganese, and magnesium.
Approximately 2/3’s of Alzheimer’s patients are women. Estrogen levels drop in post-menopausal women, affecting memory and choline production. Only 15% of women get enough choline. Choline plays a major role in memory. If you are female, eat your eggs daily, include many phytoestrogen-rich foods like flax seeds in your diet, and think twice about anticholinergic drugs.
The Worst Multivitamins for Seniors
1. Centrum Silver
The #1 Doctor recommended multivitamin makes my #1 for the worst multivitamin. Made by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, it brings in close to 1 billion in sales. Centrum uses synthetic vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol) and potentially synthetic beta-carotene (source not listed). Synthetic versions of beta-carotene have been shown to increase the risk of cancer in heavy smokers and drinkers, and accelerated the death and shortened the life span of rats exposed to radiation. But the natural form of beta-carotene decreased the death rate and significantly increased the life span of exposed rats.
Synthetic vitamin E has been shown to have little or no anticancer effectiveness, and may even increase prostate cancer. Centrum uses the oxide form of magnesium, which only 4% is absorbed. The poor form of B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), folate (folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin) are also used. Folic acid appears to be potentially problematic as I explained here. The formula is missing K2 (important for heart and bone health) and boron (important for testosterone for men and bone density for women).
Centrum contains hydrogenated palm oil, a trans-fat highly correlated to heart disease, not to mention bushels of corn additives and all the horrible artificial colors including FD#C Blue #2, Yellow #6 and Red #40 found to disrupt mitochondrial function (the power house of a cell that is important for keeping you young).
A study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology found that the dyes actually enter the bloodstream through the skin or digestive system, debunking previous expertise that the skin blocked it and the digestive system destroyed it first. This is alarming because these dyes have already been linked to ADHD, allergies, and asthma, but due to the dye’s ability to inhibit cellular respiration, a whole cascade of health effects.
2. Men’s One a Day and Women’s One a Day 50+
In another popular choice, you will find a similar formula. This one contains artificial flavor, potentially synthetic beta-carotene, magnesium oxide, cupric oxide (found to exhibit high toxicity in vitro), synthetic vitamin E, yellow dye #5, FD&C yellow 36 lake, soybean oil and zinc oxide. The poor form of B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), folate (folic acid) and B12 (cyanocobalamin) are also used.
The women’s formula contains 500mg of calcium carbonate and only 50mg of magnesium oxide. This is from the erroneous notion that higher calcium automatically means better bone density. Poor bone density in females is not due to low calcium intake only; it is due to estrogen levels that are too low, coupled with low vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, boron, inositol, vitamin C, silicone and K2 deficiencies. Like B12, Vitamin D synthesis goes down as we age. Along with the wrong calcium/magnesium ratio, this formula does not contain boron, inositol or K2.
3. Kirkland Adults 50+ Mature Multi 3. Kirkland Adults 50+ Mature Multi
I always overheard my mom use the phrase, “don’t buy a discount parachute.” This applies to your vitamin choices. Kirkland’s multivitamin for seniors sells for $9.99. at Costco. I’m all for trying to find deals and not overspend, but this has to throw up a red flag. You have to imagine how cheap a product has to be made to retail for $9.99. Further inspection shows similar shortcuts as Centrum. Magnesium oxide, synthetic vitamin E as dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate, zinc oxide, folic acid and cyanocobalamin. This formula contains 222mg of calcium to 50mg of magnesium oxide (only 4% absorption rate), which is the wrong ratio. Magnesium should be in a 1:1 to 2:1 ratio, being the same or higher than calcium. Kirkland does make a point to show that they do not use food dyes.
The Best Multivitamins for Seniors
I don’t want to admit how many hours I spent analyzing multivitamins to find a product that would fit at least most of the guidelines, but let’s just say that this was my hardest task. I have added two additional multivitamins based on the need for formulas without beta-carotene or vitamin K.
What you decide to add to this base will depend on where you need to focus. For the older generations, this includes mainly digestive health, cognitive function, bone health, eye health and heart health. Below I have outlined how to customize your program.Below I have outlined how to customize your program.
Remember to take your multivitamin with food so that you absorb the carotenoids and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Cost: $39.95 for 30 days
This is a cherry flavored powdered multivitamin with a stronger formulation that can easily be adjusted if needed. Perfect for those who struggle with swallowing capsules or prefer mixing it with liquid.
350mg vitamin C
100mg of vitamin E with mixed tocopherols
1,000IU of vitamin D
100mcg of vitamin K2
B6 as P-5-P
400mcg of methylfolate
50mcg of methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin (mitochondrial B12 and great for poor B12 absorption)
150mg of magnesium malate (good version for pain and sleep)
70mcg of selenium as selenomethionine
2 mg of boron
10mcg of zinc bisglycinate chelate
100mg of choline
Lutein and zeaxanthin
5mg of iron bisglycinate chelate
Does not contain copper (helpful for those with elevated copper)
Certificate of Analysis available by request
Cost: $27.99 for 60 capsules
The Basic Nutrients 2/Day provides the best bang for your buck, while providing the optimal levels of each nutrient with only 2 capsules per day.
Contains the right form of B12, B6, and folate for everyone including MTHFR variants
Contains 15mg of highly absorbable zinc bisglycinate chelate
Contains the right doses of manganese, copper and boron
Uses the correct dosage of vitamin E in the mixed tocopherol form, not dl-alpha tocopherol or isolated alpha-tocopherol
Uses natural mixed carotenes (including beta-carotene) from the marigold flower
Uses K2 instead of just K1
Contains selenium as selenomethionine, not selenate and selenite
Contains a higher dose of vitamin C (250mg) from L-ascorbate
Contains 2,000IU of vitamin D instead of 800IU or less
Small amount of copper (750mcg)
It requires 2 capsules instead of the 6-8 capsules often required of higher quality multivitamins
It is affordable. A higher cost doesn’t always mean higher quality, and I try to seek these out for people.
It does not contain any harmful fillers or food dyes. I have also found some clients to be sensitive to citrate forms, and this formula does not contain any.
They are conducting double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials.
Certified by GMP, TGA from the Government of Australia (Australia’s FDA), as well as by the prestigious NSF International for quality control, purity and manufacturing.
Cost: $33.00 for 60 capsules
If you need to avoid vitamin K due to blood thinners, this is a good choice.
Does not contain vitamin K for those on blood thinners
Beta carotene is from D. Salina
Contains lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin for eye support
Contains a higher amount of zinc for eye support (25mg)
Contains CoQ10 for mitochondrial support
Contains alpha lipoic acid for cell membrane support
Contains small amounts of choline and inositol
Methylated forms of B12 and folate
Does not contain copper
Contains 2,000IU vitamin D
Notes: If you have low copper levels, this may not be a good fit due to the higher levels of zinc and omission of copper.
Cost: $24.91 for 60 capsules (2 a day)
As of June 2016, MegaFood has created a new formula to include methylfolate, methylcobalamin, and active B6 P-5-P. This formula is a blend of organic whole foods, USP vitamin and mineral-fed yeast and synthesized nutrients. I have chosen to add this as a lower potency multivitamin alternative that represents a blend of all the current processing technology. Be aware that yeast-bound vitamins and minerals still remain untested for absorption and people with yeast sensitivities may not do well with this formula.
Contains 200mg of choline
Uses methylfolate, methylcobalamin and B6 in the active form P-5-P
Does not contain vitamin A and only uses beta-carotene from carrots which could be beneficial for certain older populations with bone density issues
Contains 1,000IU of vitamin D3
Contains 15mg of zinc
Small amount of copper (200mcg)
Does not contain vitamin K, important for those on blood thinners
MegaFoods is GMP registered with NSF, soy free, dairy free, gluten free, pesticide and herbicide free and GMO-free.
For those with low stomach acid or gastritis and may have trouble absorbing B12, you may require sublingual B12 in addition to this supplement due to the low B12 content.
The folate level is also 200mcg, which made need to be higher based on your MTHFR enzyme function.
If you are a female concerned about bone health, make sure to be getting sufficient boron, K2, calcium and magnesium outside of this formula.
Cost: $45.00 for 60 capsules
If you have been instructed to avoid beta carotene, alpha tocopherol, copper or boron by your doctor, this is the only formula I know of that also uses methylated B-vitamins. You should be aware that this formula does not contain any calcium or magnesium, you may require more folate, iodine, and zinc and the B6 dose is larger than normal.
Does not contain beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol, copper or boron
Methylated folate, B12 and the right form of B6
500mg of vitamin C
100mcg of vitamin K2
1,000IU of vitamin D
25 mg of tocotrienols
7mg of zinc
Does not contain copper
Betaine HCL (good for those with low stomach acid)
Relevant Research for these Formulas
In a randomized controlled study on elderly subjects with increased dementia risk, researchers showed that high-dose B-vitamin treatment (folate 0.8 mg, vitamin B6 20 mg, vitamin B12 0.5 mg) slowed shrinkage of the whole brain volume over 2 years. B- vitamins lower homocysteine, which directly leads to a decrease in gray matter atrophy, thereby slowing cognitive decline.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States and Europe in people over fifty-five years old. The Rotterdam Study performed in the Netherlands suggests that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) may be involved in the etiology of age-related macular degeneration. One study followed 3,600 people ages 55-80 years old for six years and found that those that took antioxidants plus zinc were less likely than those who took only antioxidants or only zinc to lose their vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are crucial to eye health.
As we age, melatonin production decreases rapidly, getting to its low point around 70. In the United States, only about one-third of the population (37%) reported getting 8 hours of sleep per night, and 31% reported 6 hours or less. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland as it gets dark and makes you sleepy. The following can lead to low melatonin levels: SAD, Bi-Polar, breast cancer, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, low blood flow, Caffeine, alcohol, chronic stress, nicotine, beta-blockers, certain anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers deplete melatonin.
To optimize melatonin production nutritionally, you need to look at the dopamine/adrenaline pathway (vitamin C and magnesium), the serotonin and melatonin pathway (B2, folate, B6 and B12), and glutamate/GABA pathway (probiotics, vitamin C, zinc, B6, magnesium, choline) to see where biochemical issues may need to be addressed. Then you have to look at stress, lifestyle, environment, medications, brain injuries, and diet.
Magnesium required for the removal of DNA damage generated by environmental toxins, endogenous processes, and DNA replication. Deficiency increases the susceptibility to oxidative stress, cardiovascular heart diseases as well as accelerated aging. Approximately 40-60% of sudden deaths from heart attacks occur in the complete absence of any prior artery blockage, clot formation or heart rhythm abnormalities. They are most likely occurring from spasms in the arteries with magnesium being a natural antispasmodic.
The US government study often cited shows 68% of Americans are deficient in magnesium based on dietary intake (which is high to begin with) is incredibly inaccurate based on the percentage of those with the numerous habits that deplete magnesium like medications, excess coffee, sugar, flour based food and excess alcohol. Magnesium deficiency induces heart arrhythmias, impairs glucose homeostasis, and alters cholesterol and oxidative metabolism in post-menopausal women. One study found that centenarians (those living over 100) have a higher total body magnesium and lower calcium levels than most elderly people.
Researchers from MIT formulated this type of magnesium to concentrate more in the brain, increasing neurotransmitter sites, synapse density and brain cell signaling. Magnesium L-Threonate has been shown in rat studies to enhance learning abilities, working memory, and short and long-term memory by 15% for short-term memory and 54% for long-term memory compared to magnesium citrate. It improved in both young and old, with the older rats getting the most benefit. Magnesium has been found to have a positive impact on both neural plasticity and synaptic density, and this formula has the potential for those with Alzheimers, dementia or those simply wanting to improve memory.
Magnesium Citrate is the best form for constipation. Glycinate is the best form for sleep and higher doses. If acid reflux is an issue, you need to build bone health or digestion is suboptimal, use the calcium/magnesium product. Read more about magnesium in my article here.
Studies in older adults demonstrate that the gut microbiota correlates with diet, location of residence and level of inflammation. The decline of Bifidobacteria with age may contribute to aging-associated disease.
The FUT2 gene controls prebiotic production, B12 absorption and how much bifidobacteria you carry in your digestive tract. Bifidus also produces intestinal folate. Certain variants in FUT2 as found through Nutrition Genome can help determine your ability to absorb B12 and bifidobacteria colonization. The gut/brain axis is an extremely important concept for mental health, and diversified gut flora is going to help produce GABA, lowering the destructive effects of excess glutamate on the brain seen here and assisting sleep.
Constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal disorders encountered in clinical practice in Western societies. Its prevalence increases with age and is more frequently reported in female patients. What many people don’t realize, is that it is often from a deficiency in magnesium, vitamin C, fiber and probiotics.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have been called “type 3 diabetes” due to the role of high blood sugar and brain deterioration. However, there are other factors including hormone function and nutrient deficiencies in the glutamate/GABA pathway.
In many ways, DHA is a miracle nutrient for the human body. DHA protects the brain from elevated blood sugar and lowers the risk of diabetes, lowers triglycerides, helps prevents cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, reduces sudden death from heart attack by 50% with 200mg, prevents cardiac arrhythmias and lowers depression, lowers blood pressure, prevents tumor formation and arthritis.
Eating fish one to three times a week has been associated with a 40 to 75 percent reduction in macular degeneration. A study concluded that elder people with poor diets, especially with low antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, are more prone to developing macular degeneration and benefit from supplementation. “Micronutrient supplementation enhances antioxidant defense and healthy eyes and might prevent/retard/modify macular degeneration” with the use of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamins C, E, and zinc/copper.
*The Wiley’s Finest was chosen for its high quality and small capsules for those who have trouble swallowing or need to reduce the risk of choking on a capsule.
Ashwagandha is also known as Indian Ginseng and has been one of my adaptogen recommendations for athletes due to its research on performance, VO2 max, muscle size and muscle strength. An adaptogen is a natural substance that increases the body’s resistance to physical (heat, cold and exertion), chemical (toxins and heavy metals) and biological (bacteria and viruses) stressor. Ashwagandha has another phenomenal characteristic beyond athletic performance. It is neuroprotective and improves memory.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by progressive dysfunction of memory and higher cognitive functions with abnormal accumulation of extracellular amyloid plaques and intracellular neurofibrillary tangles throughout cortical and limbic brain regions. Researchers have demonstrated that when ashwagandha was added to β-amyloid treated samples, the toxic effects were neutralized and ashwagandha root extract was neuroprotective against β-amyloid induced neuropathogenesis.
The buildup of amyloid plaque appears to do special damage to the default network of the brain. The default network is the place your brain clicks over to in the resting state known for creativity. The complexity of the default network is also responsible for self-awareness, memory, future planning, empathy and moral judgment.
Canadian researchers using big data revealed that a decline in the brain’s blood flow is the earliest symptom of Alzheimer’s. It would appear then that increasing oxygen and blood flow would help prevent this decline and protect the default network. Ashwagandha has been found to increase oxygen capacity and protect against amyloid plaque. Combining ashwagandha with deep breathing exercises (meditation, yoga, tai chi, Qi Gong) and regular exercise would be a prudent approach to help increase oxygen transport to the brain.
Compounds in Lion’s Mane are able to stimulate the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), which promotes the repair and regeneration of neurons. There is growing clinical evidence that Lion’s Mane in beneficial in mild forms of dementia. In a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, 50-80-year old Japanese men and women with mild cognitive impairment given 3g/day showed significant increases on a cognitive function scale compared with a placebo group over a 16 week period.
One study took 7 patients with different types of dementia were given 5g a day of Lion’s Mane in soup. Six months all seven demonstrated improvement in their Functional Independence Measure score (eating, dressing, walking etc.), while six out of seven demonstrated improvements in their perceptual capacities (understanding, communication, memory, etc). A different study found that neuronal excitability from glutamic acid (one of the causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia) appears to be attenuated in the presence of Lion’s Mane.
Anxiety and depression was reduced in a human study with a dosage of 2 grams per day after 4 weeks, with a significant difference between groups on the measurements of concentration and irritability.
The other fascinating characteristic of Lion’s Mane is the gastro-protective effect on the digestive system. This is a major secondary benefit since gastritis is one of the main reasons the older generations start to decline in health. Lion’s Mane has been found to promote ulcer protection and significant protection activity against gastric mucosal injury by preventing the depletion of antioxidant enzymes. Treatment with a hot water extract of Lion’s Mane decreased lipid peroxidation and increased superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activities, quenching free radicals in the gastric tissue of the ethanol-induced rats to exhibit gastroprotective activity.
For understanding more about mental health including anxiety and depression, read the article Mental Health Starts in the Gut, Not the Brain.
For heart health, check out How to Read Your Cardiovascular Blood Work in 5 Steps. This will also tell you how to adjust your diet and supplement program based on your results.
To read more about bone health, see the article How Much Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D Should You Take?
Have kids or grandchildren? The Best Children’s Multivitamins