Brain Health

  • The Brain and Neurons
  • Important Brain Chemicals (neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, neurotrophic factors)
  • The Brain and the Aging Process
  • Staying Healthy and Sharp (diet and nutrition, exercise, sleep, minimizing risks for the brain, summary)
Clearly, the brain needs no introduction. As humans, we naturally come to understand that the brain is the most important organ in the human body, and useful for a variety of reasons. We can also logically assume that, the brain, like our other organs, develops, matures, peaks, and then consequently declines as we age. Whether we are rich or poor, average or above average, our brain health will undoubtedly worsen, as this misfortune applies to us all. In this case, knowing that a decline is inevitable, we are gifted with the ability to take measures to prevent this less than desirable weakening of our most valuable bodily asset. Knowledge is power. By taking a moment to learn and understand some basic facts about brain health, and the manner in which our brain continues to age, we all have the ability to age gracefully, and to live a longer, healthier, and happier life, as we embrace the many stages in this journey we call life!  

The Brain and Neurons

Generally speaking, the brain of an average adult weighs approximately three pounds. The human brain consists of three primary parts, including the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum, filling most of the space within the skull, possesses advanced functions such as memory recall, problem solving, critical thinking, and the capacity of feeling. The cerebrum also controls our bodily movements, which allows us to function in a capable manner. The cerebellum, in a similar fashion, controls our coordination, as well as the balance of our particular bodily movements, while the brain stem contains the life center  of  our body, controlling  basic 
living requirements, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate, and blood pressure. If the brain stem were to fail, which connects the brain to the spinal cord, in an unfortunate tragedy, the result would most likely be loss of life, absent the help of a medical life support system to help the body continue functioning. As a general rule, maintaining quality brain function and health is mandatory in leading a happy, productive, and healthy life.

Our brain, dependent upon the activities of individual neurons and cells, requires support to successfully function. In an adult brain, there are 86 billion neuron cells, and a similar amount of glial cells. These neurons communicate, or speak to one another, via specialized structures called synapses, with about 100 trillion synapses in action during this communication process. While neurons are essentially the most important cells within the brain, as they carry out the major functions of the nervous system, the glial cells play a supportive and protective role in their efforts. The glial cells support and protect the neurons, also providing structural and metabolic support, nicely holding the neurons together (literally serving as a "glue," as the Greek origin implies), while also electrically insulating the neurons, providing housekeeping services by cleaning up excess neurotransmitters, supporting synapse growth, providing nutrition, and a few other functions. Glial cells, which can take many other forms, such as astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, ependymal cells, radial glial, satellite cells, and Schwann cells, are indeed a complicated yet vital element of healthy brain activity.

While the human brain is nourished by a rich blood supply, consuming about 20% of our blood and oxygen supply, it accounts for just a mere 2% of our body weight. With that being said, it is difficult to imagine that such a lightweight asset can require up to 50% of the fuel and oxygen levels we maintain in our body during periods of extensive critical thinking. Undoubtedly, the brain requires plenty of nutrients and energy to properly function, normally using glucose as its primary energy source. In the event that blood glucose concentration has decreased to a rather low level, the brain will consequently use other energy sources to function. With prolonged fasting, a low carbohydrate diet, and starvation, for instance, our brain cells may begin to use ketone bodies, which are synthesized by the liver from fat breakdown products, as a part of its fuel source. When continuous prolonged starvation occurs, the proteins of the cells will be broken down into amino acids, subsequently converted by the liver into glucose, to meet the brain's need for increased energy levels. Clearly, the nutritional needs of the brain are of the highest priority in the human body.
For many years, we have lived with the dogma that the Central Nervous System (CNS) does not contain a lymphatic system.  Although it is now accepted that the CNS does undergo constant immune surveillance, the mechanism of how those immune cells enter and exit the CNS is not understood until 2015 when two independent studies were published by Louveau et al. from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and by Aspelund et al. from the University of Heksinki. Both groups have provided convincing scientific evidence of the existence of a conventional lymphatic system in the CNS. This is exciting and a very important advance in medical science because “the discovery of the central nervous   system   lymphatic   system  may call for a ​
reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmuology and sheds new light on the aetiology of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases associated with immune system dysfunction”. Malfunction of the meningeal lymphatic vessels in the CNS could potentially be a root cause of a variety of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and some forms of primary lymphedema. Therefore, the unprecedented discovery of CNS lymphatic system could open up new research avenues leading to a better understanding on CNS diseases and finally to new strategies treating patients.

Important Brain Chemicals

Miraculously, our brain is responsible for producing a variety of chemicals that are utilized by the brain itself. These chemicals are used in a variety of various ways, all with unique functions, such as internal and external brain communication, protection, nutrition, growth and neurogenesis, along with several others. These chemicals, which include neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, neurotrophic factors, and more, are incredibly important to the brain and the nervous system as a whole, while working collaboratively in a productive way. Without these indispensable chemicals, the brain would not be the capable organ as we know it.


Neurotransmitters, the biomolecules that are synthesized by neuron cells, are messengers of the neurons. In the CNS, they transmit signals from one neuron to another or many others. In other words, the target cells are neurons. In our Peripheral Nervous System (or PNS, which is divided into the somatic nervous
system and the autonomic nervous system)­­­­, however, the target cells can also be gland cells or different muscle cells. The neurotransmitters are consequently released from synaptic vesicles of presynaptic neurons into the synaptic cleft, and are then received by receptors of the target cells. In an effort to change the functional status of the targeted cells, the binding of the neurotransmitters and the receptors are bound to cause either stimulation or inhibition of the downstream neurons or other targeted cells. Without neurotransmitters, our skeletal muscles would be incapable of maintaining their tone, we could not sit or stand against the force of gravity, and our blood vessels would not be able to hold the 
blood pressure within the normal range.  On a final note, representative of their value, neurotransmitters are needed to successfully use our sensory skills (sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch), and to essentially perform any cognitive activity.

Surprisingly, in excess of 100 neurotransmitters have been identified, many of which are made from simple molecules such as amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Tyrosine, for example, is the precursor of norepinephrine and epinephrine, both of which are transmitters of sympathetic nervous system. Tryptophan, as well, is the precursor of serotonin (5-HT), which is related to several physiological brain functions, such as mood, sleep, appetite, sexual desire, temperature regulation, some social behavior, memory, and learning. In this case, a deficiency in serotonin may unfortunately lead to depression. As a classic favored treatment for depression, Prozac is used to elevate those deficient serotonin brain levels, most specifically at the synaptic cleft. 

Interestingly, some amino acids themselves can directly serve as neurotransmitters, e.g., glutamate and glycine. On the other hand, choline, a non-amino acid compound, is the precursor of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is a truly important neurotransmitter in the CNS and the PNS. Acetylcholine, found in the CNS, is considered to be one of the most important neurotransmitters connected to memory formation, verbal and logical reasoning, as well as concentration skills, yet in the PNS, it is a neurotransmitter to be smooth muscle ( a type of muscles that constitute and function in different organs or systems, such as gastrointestinal tracts, genitourinary system, air ways, blood vessels, etc.), heart muscle, glands and others. With this insight, it is evident that the lack of necessary nutrients would compromise neurotransmitter productions, therefore affecting the potential functions of the brain and the peripheral nervous systems. Truth be told, to produce neurotransmitters, nutrients, building blocks, and energies are required, in addition to specific enzymes and cofactors (often vitamins and minerals, enabling enzymes to properly function). Across many decades, basic and clinical scientific studies have established and concluded that vitamins are undoubtedly indispensable cofactors for enzymes in many chemical reactions in the body, and that their deficiencies will cause an array of organ dysfunctions, placing the brain at risk of one of those inevitable deficiencies.


Neuropeptides are small-protein-like molecules, which are secreted primarily by neurons, some by glial cells. They are neuronal signaling molecules that are used by the neurons to communicate with one another. Today, approximately 100 different neuropeptides are known to be released by varying populations of neurons in the mammalian brain. These neuropeptides have extremely diverse effects, and they influence the activity of the brain in specific ways. Neuropeptides are capable of affecting gene expression, local blood flow, synaptogenesis, and glial cell morphology. They tend to have prolonged actions, and some have very striking effects on behavior. Numerous neuropeptides are involved in a wide range of brain functions, including analgesia, reward, food consumption, metabolism, reproduction, social behaviors, learning, and memory. In terms of the differences between neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, the nruropeptides are not recycled back into the cell once they are secreted, which is in fact the case for many conventional neurotransmitters, like glutamate, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin). Another difference is that after secretion occurs, the neuropeptides are modified by extracellular peptidases, wherein these modifications may consequently inactivate the biological activity of a neuropeptide, or increase the affinity for a neuropeptide ( for a particular receptor), while decreasing its affinity for another receptor. On a final note, one or more neuropeptides are often made by the same neurons that make conventional neurotransmitters, but they are stored in different vesicles within the neurons.

Neurotrophic Factors

Neurotrophic factors, a group of proteins belonging to a class of growth factors, are responsible for the growth and survival of developing neurons, and for the maintenance of the mature neurons. More specifically, neurotrophic factors help to prevent neurons from initiating programmed cell death, in addition to helping stimulate and control the differentiation of progenitor cells to form neuron cells, the process known as neurogenesis. The primary members of neurotrophic factors are neurotrophins, including nerve growth factor (NGF), brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin 3 (NT3) and neurotrophin 4 (NT4), as well as glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor family ligands (GFL's). One of the most active members of the neurotrophin family is the brain derived neurotrophic factor, which not only regulates neuronal survival and differentiation, but also promotes learning and memory skills.

The Brain and the Aging Process
According to science research and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, our brains reach 90% of adult size by age five. As cells learn to communicate better, the language and spatial awareness portions of the brain grow dramatically, which occurs between ages 5 and 10. When we gain maturity in our 20s, so too does the brain, with reasoning, planning and impulse-control areas that are fully developed. At this age, the brain is capable of complex reasoning, and the brain's long-term memory functions begin to peak, when creativity may be at its best.  From age 30 to 40, our brain volume gradually begins to decline just a bit, as the brain cells proceed to shrink. However, in most cases, there are rarely any noticeable signs at this stage. As we approach age 40 to 50, the short-term memory may appear to be slightly less than sharp, this being the first recognizable sign of gradual decline in the volume of our brain. During this period, unexpected reactions to complex stimuli, such as challenging calculations, or perhaps a card game, may take a bit longer. While continuous decline continues at a slow space from age 50 to 60, conceptual understanding, language, and vocabulary remain quite sharp. Wisdom, creativity, and the ability to understand how things work, can also remain intact, as well as financial literacy, too. Even at age 
70 and beyond, for many individuals, the reasoning, creativity, well as financial literacy, too. Even at age 70 and beyond, for many individuals, the reasoning, creativity, language, and procedural memories will still remain sharp. For some people, however, genetic predisposition, lifestyle, and health issues begin to show noticeable effects. Good examples of these effects are early signs of brain issues like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. These changes could occur at earlier ages. The other dementias include  vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, mixed dementia,  Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia,
Creutzfelt Jakob disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus, Huntington’s disease, and Wernicke-Kosarcoff Syndrome.  Given appropriate prevention and treatment, some dementia may be preventable or reversible. For example, vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or a serial strokes, which is preventable by adopting a good lifestyle and receiving appropriate medical attention; Wernicke-Kosarcff Syndrome is caused by severe vitamin B1 deficiency mostly due to alcoholism.  We will discuss how to adopt a healthy life style and the nutritional aspects to maintain a healthy brain.

Staying Healthy and Sharp

Your life style habits decisively affect your overall health, thus your brain functionality throughout your lifetime. Except for genes we inherit from our parents, wherein we have no choice, we can make perfectly conscious decisions about how to stay mentally sharp at any age. There are some natural lifestyle rules one has to follow that significantly influence brain health. These rules cover four essential aspects: (1) diet and nutrition; (2) exercise (including physical and mental exercises); (3) sleep; (4) minimizing risks for the brain.

For small children, three key words are most crucial for continued positive health: eat, sleep and play. The word “eat” highlights diet and nutrition. In the broader sense of life supporting materials, water, oxygen, and other essential elements should also be included within this nutritional category. The word “play” indicates both physical and mental exercise, clearly useful for keeping our body and brain in tiptop shape. The word “sleep” spells out the critical need for recovery and growth, a mandatory requirement needed to thrive and survive. In fact, these three words also govern everyone else’s (young or old, male or female) health and life on the planet. Truth be told, no food is equivalent to no life, no exercise is equivalent to no life, and one cannot possibly thrive in the absence of sleep, as there will be no opportunity available for recovery, growth, and hence, NO resulting life, once again. Therefore, if we really want to stay healthy and sharp, we must clearly take good personal care of those three factors, while minimizing any risks that may be detrimental to our brain in any way.

Diet and Nutrition

In terms of diet and nutrition, the key is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, by avoiding poor habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, ingesting addictive drugs, and instead, we must consciously choose to eat a healthy and well balanced diet. From a nutritional point of view, dietary supplementation should also be considered if your diet is missing certain essential components necessary to thrive, if you suffer from deficiencies as a result, or if for some reason your body shows evidence that it is not well balanced.

Included below are details about the major breakdown nutrients from foods, which are sugar, protein, lipids, vitamins, minerals, water, and fibers.
 (1) Sugars. Different forms of sugar can be obtained from grains, corn, beans, some vegetables, fruits, sweetened beverages, cookies, candies, etc., which provides a variety of options to help us enjoy the element of sugar that helps it taste sweet. Everybody loves sugar, indeed, but it also has gained somewhat of a “bad reputation” in the recent history related to our diet, health, and diseases, simply because too much of it is convincingly linked to many unenviable diseases. So, do we really need sugars? Yes, we absolutely do, in fact. The brain’s major energy source is glucose, a form of sugar, hence the need for sugar to help supply the much-needed energy we so desire throughout our days. The best  sugar  sources, however, are not from simple sugars, such as the sugar in sweet drinks and cookies, but from whole grains or whole foods instead. Whole foods contain not only sugar in the form of starch, but also contain many other nutrients, including proteins, lipids, minerals, vitamins, and very importantly fibers. Therefore, they have high nutritional value compared to simple sugars. Another important advantage of whole grains in a rich and healthy diet, is the fact that the fiber-rich foods can slow down the emptying of your stomach contents, and the absorption of these sugars, or sugars broken down from starch. Chronically, too much simple sugar in the diet, in addition to excessively rapid sugar absorption, can cause serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and so on.  So, choosing whole foods as your sugar source, while avoiding simple sugars, is a wise and healthy decision to positively benefit your brain and body health.

(2) Proteins. Proteins can be obtained from either animal or plant-based foods. The building blocks of protein products from foods are known as amino acids which can be used for body protein synthesis, including brain proteins, and also can serve as precursors for a variety of neurotransmitters as previously discussed. In general, proteins from animal sources have higher biological value for humans than proteins from plant sources, simply because the amino acid profile (composition) of animal proteins is similar to that of human proteins. Therefore, they are used more readily and efficiently than plant proteins by the body.

Of particular importance, is the composition and content of essential amino acids, the amino acids that cannot be made by the body, but must be supplied in the diet. Proteins with a higher essential amino acid content for human, undoubtedly possess a higher value. Tryptophan, one such essential amino acid, is the precursor for synthetizing serotonin, the important neurotransmitter in the brain. Other essential amino acids include threonine, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, phenylalanine, lysine, and histidine. Some amino acids are conditionally essential, including arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, and tyrosine. These amino acids can be synthesized, or produced, by the body, but the synthesis is limited under certain pathophysiological conditions, such as prematurity in infants, for instance. This also needs to be considered when choosing protein for those special conditions. By selecting the right combination for your body and situation, the results will be positive.

(3) Lipids.  Lipids are indispensable components for cell membranes, accounting for about 50% by weight. The major lipids in cell membrane are phospholipids, glycolipids, and cholesterol. Cholesterol, nonessential fatty acids, and triglycerides can be synthetized by the human body, but essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), cannot be synthetized, and must consequently be obtained from diet or dietary supplements to attain those benefits. 
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids certainly play a crucial role in our everyday brain function, normal growth, and development. According to scientific research, “the ratio of membrane omega-3 to omega-6 PUFAs can be modulated by dietary intake." This ratio influences neurotransmission and prostaglandin formation, processes that are vital to the maintenance of normal brain function. While omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation, some omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation.  For health purposes, there should be a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 to 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3. Fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) and nuts are good sources of Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for consumption, providing yet another opportunity to make healthy choices to achieve a healthy body.

(4) Vitamins.  As the name suggests, these organic compounds are vital nutrients to life. They cannot be created by the body, and they must be obtained through diet or dietary supplements. A variety of vitamins are found within different foods, in varying amounts. The vitamin contents are also variable dependent upon how fresh the raw foods may be, how little or lengthy you cook the foods, how you store the cooked foods, such as frozen or fresh, and so on. In order to obtain enough vitamins, you need to consume the right foods in sufficient quantity. Oftentimes we may not get enough vitamins through the food we consume, and as a result, health problems ensue. In the brain, for example, severe deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1), seen in chronic alcoholics, can cause mental depression, peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, and even more severe neurological symptoms, including ataxia, loss of eye coordination, mental confusion, and chronic impairment of short-term memory. As cofactors for enzymes, B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B2, B12, and folate, are required in synthesis of neurotransmitters in the CNS. Vitamin C is required as a coenzyme for dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine biosynthesis. In summary, appropriate knowledge is essentially brain power in this regard.

The importance of vitamins can be examined from other perspectives as well. Accumulation of a harmful chemical, homocysteine, a metabolite of amino acid methionine, has been linked to cognitive decline in the elderly. A randomized controlled clinical study on effects of B vitamins on Mild Cognitive impairment (MCI) in elderly patients has been done by scientists at Oxford University. This 2-year study demonstrated that three B vitamins treatment, B6, B12, and folic acid, reduces the cerebral atrophy (shrinking) in those gray matter (GM) regions specifically vulnerable to the Alzheimer’s disease process by as much as seven fold in the patients with high homocysteine levels. In the placebo group, higher homocysteine levels at baseline are associated with faster GM atrophy. These astonishing results were published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in 2013. It makes perfect sense since vitamins B6 and B12 are the cofactors for enzymes in the pathways of folic acid / one carbon metabolism and methionine metabolism. These three B vitamins work together to reduce patients’ homocysteine levels and thus counteract the brain atrophy and cognitive decline. These biochemical metabolism pathways are also directly responsible for DNA synthesis, DNA methylation, epinephrine synthesis, and many other bioactivities in the body and the brain. On an additional note, high homocysteine levels in the blood are also closely linked to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and the formation of blood clots, which could potentially cause a heart attack.

Vitamin B12 is special among vitamins because its absorption requires a specialized protein secreted by stomach parietal cells called intrinsic factor. Vitamin B12 molecules can be absorbed by the intestines, only when bound with intrinsic factor. However, for people who suffer from atrophic gastritis, or whose autoantibodies attack their own intrinsic factor or the parietal cells, vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed. This will cause severe vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to megaloblastic anemia, which can be corrected by supplementation of B12. Vitamin B12 supplementation is also particularly important for the elderly because vitamin B12 is poorly absorbed at this age group, and they often suffer from its deficiency. Easily corrected, taking vitamin B12 supplementation can help to alleviate the issue.

Vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative damage. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, while vitamin E is an important oil-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E has a key role in preventing oxidant-induced lipid destruction, therefore, vitamin E is critical in maintaining the integrity of the cell membranes, and its deficiency causes lipid peroxidation in the brain tissues. This deficiency causes neurological symptoms, including impaired balance and coordination, injury to the sensory nerves, muscle weakness, and serious damage to retina of the eyes.

Vitamin D, well known for its role in promoting bone health and regulating vital calcium levels, is yet another aspect to consider in your continued health. The new 2010 recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D has been increased from 400 IU to 600 IU for 1 - 70 years of age and pregnant or breastfeeding women, and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age. Studies have also shown that our personal vitamin D level is also highly correlated with brain health because its deficiency may cause mental decline. In a fight to stop these effects in their tracks, supplementation would certainly slow down or reverse the decline and negative effects. High doses of vitamin D is also known to help individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic and typically progressive disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. To avoid deficiencies, and to manage to support and promote a personally healthy and productive existence, choosing supplementation may be a worthy alternative to experiencing unexpected or unintentional declines in your health and well-being.
(5) Minerals. Having adequate minerals in a daily diet is essential to proper brain function as well. In physiology, the primary ions of electrolytes are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), chloride (Cl-), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42-), and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3-). These minerals, and others listed below are all very important to the brain.

Calcium - This ion is important to neuronal gene expression, neurotransmitter release, and synaptic plasticity. Changes in calcium homeostasis in the brain may be attributed to cognitive decline.
Iodine - This ion is a component of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4), which are critical in many physiological processes, growth, development, metabolism, and reproduction. During fetal and early development, deficiency in iodine will adversely affect development of the central nervous system, leading to cognitive deficit, which is irreversible in severe cases. Maintaining a healthy thyroid function is clearly essential to leading a happy and healthy life.
Iron - is also an essential component of hundreds of proteins and enzymes that participate in numerous vital cellular activities, such as oxygen transport, electron transport, energy production and DNA synthesis. It is needed for development of oligodendrocytes and neurotransmitter synthesis. Persistent deficiency in iron during the perinatal stage causes deficiency in learning and memory. However, on the contrary, iron overdose is toxic to neurons. With that being said, being informed and careful about the appropriate dosage will lead to positive and healthy results.

Magnesium - is required for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body as well. It is imperative to normal brain function. Fortunately, magnesium is abundant in both plant and animal foods. The kidney can limit its secretion from urine if its intake is low, therefore, magnesium deficiency is less common. However, ATPase enzymes that transport sodium, potassium, and calcium ions are sensitive to magnesium deficiency, which may cause muscle tremors, spasms, and tetany because these enzymes are involved in neuromuscular activity. Keeping apprised of this additional aspect that can so greatly affect our health and well-being is certainly a wise decision, and worthy of some intentional focus.

Selenium - is required for glutathione peroxidases, the important antioxidant enzymes in the brain and in other tissues, which crackdown potentially damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS). Deficiency in selenium decreases glutathione peroxidases activity, leading to accumulation of reactive oxygen species, causing harm to the brain. In essence, making concerted efforts to consistently and successfully manage these areas can be beneficial in the long run, in terms of living a long and healthy life.

Zinc - is present at high levels in the brain. Most zinc ion is tightly bound to proteins, but zinc present in synaptic vesicles is free, which plays an important role in neurotransmission mediated by glutamate and GABA. Deficiency in fetal brain development can cause congenital malformations. Deficiency during later stages of brain development has been linked to deficits in attention, learning, memory, and neuropsychological behavior. Its release from the brain cells is associated with several pathological changes including Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).  A recent research published in the journal Neuron has shown that zinc is important in communications between neurons in supporting memory formation.
(6) Water. Two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. It is a common sense, as we know, that no water intake is equivalent to no life. You cannot overemphasize its importance. Staying hydrated is not just the brain’s need, but the whole body’s need, however brain cells are among the most vulnerable to dehydration. Intracellular water will move out of the cells and the brain cells will shrink as a result of continued dehydration. Severe dehydration will inevitably lead to confusion and coma, and death may result if dehydration is left uncorrected. If you are healthy, and do not typically sweat excessively, then only 2-3 liters of fluid is needed for replacing the water you secrete each day. Logically, you should increase water intake if more water is lost than gained.

(7) Fiber. Fiber (commonly called bulk or roughage), either soluble or insoluble, is defined by National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) as non-digestible food plant carbohydrate and lignin that is not digested or absorbed in the human small intestine, nonetheless it is indeed essential for a healthy life. The best dietary fiber choices to help improve fiber intake, are whole-grain products, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, other legumes, and nuts and seeds. Aside from other remedies for relieving constipation, a high-fiber diet has many other benefits in leading a healthy lifestyle that results in good brain health.

Fiber additionally optimizes bowel movements and improves gastrointestinal health. Fiber not only increases the weight and size of the stool, but also absorbs water and softens it, making the bowel movement more manageable in many cases. These fiber effects in the bowel help to maintain an overall healthy body, including a healthy brain.  Dietary fiber may also help lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, inflammation, control blood sugar levels, and prevent colorectal cancer.  Because of its bulky and filling nature, a high fiber diet has less energy density and will give you less calories from the same volume of food, making weight control possible and effective, while satisfying your desire for food. Fiber is a wise choice to include in a daily diet as needed.

The non-digestible dietary fiber compounds that pass from the upper gastrointestinal tract, and beneficially stimulate growth and/or activity of beneficial bacterial species that already reside in the colon, consequently improve the host health. These beneficial fiber compounds, specifically nondigestible oligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides, are defined as prebiotics by Gibson GR and Roberfroid MB in 1995. Intake of prebiotics can significantly modulate the colonic microbial populations towards the direction beneficial to the host. This is one of the most important mechanisms that fiber does to help benefit the human health mentioned above.   

During the past decade, the concept of the brain-gut axis has emerged, and plays a critical role in health and diseases, including the central nervous system (CNS). The brain-gut axis is a bidirectional communication system between the CNS and the gastrointestinal tract. A sound, balanced brain-gut communication is essential for whole body homeostasis, including that of the brain. Based on current understanding, the suggested bidirectional communication between brain and the gut, include neural, endocrine, immune, and metabolic pathways, which are vividly illustrated by Yan Wang and Lloyd H. Kasper. The microbiome-CNS communication is vital, and its regulation is involved in a wide range of brain functionality, including cognition, personality, mood, sleep, and eating behaviors, and may also contribute to a range of neuropsychiatric diseases such as affective disorders, depression, anxiety, stress, autism, and even schizophrenia. In conclusion, dietary fiber, particularly prebiotics, is of special importance for our brain, besides many other beneficiary effects on human health. According to National Academy of Medicine, who recommends 20–35 grams of dietary fiber per day for an adult depending on calories intake (e.g., a 2000 Cal diet should include 25 g of fiber per day) to support a healthy life, these effort will provide an increase in worthy benefits.


1. Physical exercise
Physical fitness is absolutely crucial in keeping our brains continually sharp. Our brain is not only in need of nutritional supplies from a health body, via blood circulation, but also needs a variety of stimulants 
from body movements. Why? Because every part of our body is directly or indirectly controlled by the brain, and on the other hand, every bit of stimulants from the exercise would be relayed to our brain. These bidirectional connections make our body and brain connect as an inseparable whole. The inseparable connections of physical, physiological, and biochemical factors between the brain and the body have been repeatedly elucidated and proved throughout past centuries by medical research and clinical studies. Without a doubt, physical exercise benefits the brain and help to make it even sharper.

Undoubtedly, there is ample evidence showing that exercise enhances the production and release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDMF), and also induces a series of molecular and cellular processes favoring angiogenesis, neurogenesis, and synaptogenesis. Other examples include the fact that physical exercise improves mood and cognition functions, such as memory, processing speed, attention, and executive functions, presumably by increasing neurotransmitter monoamines’ release and enhancing the release of endorphins. Studies also show that exercise significantly benefits subjects suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), or early-stage dementia.

Depending on one's personal medical condition, living situation, preference, or interest, any exercise or movement of the body, such as walking, running, swimming, hiking, biking, playing ball, lifting, gardening, yoga, and so on, will do the job and benefit your brain. In the event that one is affected by a medical condition that limits his or her physical exercise, the conditions should be first treated, or alleviated. If an individual cannot do so, then a modified exercise plan should be adopted with reduced intensity, length, or/and frequency, or just exercise minimally and within reason, if at all possible. There is no alternative way to maintain body and brain health if you want to be healthy and sharp in your mind. Ignoring this principle of exercise, would clearly compromise quality of life, leading to a fast decline in cognitive function, as this is particularly true for older people.

2. Mental exercise

(1) Cognitive activities. Can we potentially do anything to slow down cognitive decline in later life?  A 2013 study by Robert S. Wilson et al. examined the many neuropathologic changes involved amongst 294 individuals who had died after almost 6 years of annual cognitive function testing. The answer from this study is an absolute, "yes!" The authors concluded that an active brain throughout our lifetime results in a slow cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions, which is consistent with the cognitive reserve hypothesis. With that being said, mentally stimulating activities are good for keeping your brain healthy, like reading books and magazines, improving vocabulary and language skills, learning new languages, playing games
(including computer games) and puzzles, learning new things, taking or teaching classes, or other mental activities. When you learn new things on a regular basis, you consequently challenge yourself to create new memories and connections, which is not only extremely beneficial, but also beyond fun.​​

(2) Social activities. Science has shown that engaging in regular social activities can help reduce risks for some health problems, including dementia. Staying connected with your family and friends is important for brain health and cognitive functions.  In addition, a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that “participation in social activities outside the family may have a bigger impact on cognitive function than social contacts with family or non-relatives”. People having meaningful social activities, like volunteering, wherein they say they feel happier and healthier. Agencies on aging, senior centers, or other community organizations are a good source for finding a social program that would best fit your situation, interest, and goals.


Sleep is critically important for maintaining a healthy brain. Studies have shown that chronic sleep loss, such as sleeping less than seven or eight hours a night, has been linked to cognitive decline, memory loss, and even dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. Not only will deprivation of sleep impair short-term and long-term memory, the characteristics of cognitive decline, but also it can negatively affect brain garbage or toxin removal, the process occurring during sleep. As we noted previously, the human brain is extremely active in metabolism, consuming about 20% fuel and 20% oxygen of whole body, though weighting a mere 2% of the body weight. Therefore, the metabolic wastes build up within the brain quite quickly, and must be removed swiftly and efficiently. The removal of the wastes is vitally important. However, for over a hundred years, we don’t know how the brain removes the wastes, until just recently, after two phenomenally noteworthy discoveries have been made by scientists in the field of brain research.
One discovery is the glymphatic system, established by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard’s research group at University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, which is a paravascular waste clearance pathway for the mammalian CNS.  It consists of a route for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) entering the brain parenchyma (functional brain tissue), and a clearance mechanism for the removal of interstitial fluid (ISF) and extracellular solutes. The exchange of solutes between CSF and ISF is driven by arterial pulsation and facilitated by astrocytes (glial cells). This exchange is regulated during sleep periods, by the expansion and contraction of brain extracellular space. Clearance of soluble protein and waste products of the brain by this system is extremely important in this regard. ​​During natural sleep, the metabolite clearance rate increases dramatically including b-amyloid protein plaque, accumulation of which characterizes the most common dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, Dr. Nedergaard et al, in a paper published in Science in October 2013, suggested “the restorative function of sleep may be a consequence of the enhanced removal of potentially neurotoxic waste products that accumulate in the awake central nervous system”.

The other discovery relative to the aspect of sleep benefits, is the CNS lymphatic system, discovered in 2015 by two independent scientist groups, as was mentioned previously. The CNS lymphatic system works together with the glymphatic system to "drain" the brain wastes to prevent accumulation of all kinds of neurotoxic waste products to keep our brain healthy.

It is clear that sleep is critically important for brain health, not only for the reasons previously known, such as memory formation, repair daily wear and tear, and restoration of the whole body, but also for the newly proved reasons, which include, clearing out toxins to avoid accumulation of toxic proteins like b-amyloid protein, thus minimizing the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in particular.

Minimize Risk Factors that Affect Brain Health and Productivity
In addition, it is imperative to avoid or remove any risk factors for the brain. The following are the common risk factors that need to be taken quite seriously:

1. DO choose to adopt a healthy life style. Eat a healthy diet, exercise and obtain sufficient quality sleep as previously discussed. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and use of addictive drugs, etc.

2. DO treat medical conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, brain injuries, depression, anemia, intoxication by toxic chemicals, and whatever endangers the brain health.

3. DO keep sensory organs sharp. Maintain good eyesight. Whenever you need a new pair of glasses, go see your optometrist. If you have a cataract or any significant eye problems, seek medical guidance. Keep your hearing sharp. If you need a hearing aid, seek medical attention to alleviate these concerns.

According to a study by Dr. Frank Lin, hearing loss plays a role in dementia, as he estimates 36% of dementia risks are linked to hearing impairment. This is the first study of its kind that links hearing loss to dementia. The results are rather surprising, but do make sense, because hearing impairment would greatly reduce mental stimulants as a result of hearing loss or reduction. Our brain truly needs a diverse selection of good physical and intellectual stimulants at all times in order to keep its function consistently sharp, and to fight its imminent decline.

If we are really motivated to keep our brain healthy and sharp, the goal we undoubtedly strive to reach, we should commit to making the mentioned adjustments discussed above, such as having a good diet and including healthy nutritional choices, exercising regularly (including physical and mental exercises), acquiring sufficient high quality sleep, and minimizing the risks that can work against achieving the ideal brain health. Among these options, the most fundamental aspect is eating healthy and nutritional foods. Based on science, the specially designed brain health product, MemoSorce, consisting of porcine cerebroprotein hydrolysate, citicoline, and critical vitamins, is such a valuable dietary supplement, supporting good brain health, inclusive of improved cognitive functions, which aims toward helping people reach the ultimate goal to attain significant brain and body health that can last inevitably longer than expected.​​