The modern pace of life requires us to work hard, cope with a lot of demands and concentrate on several complex tasks at once. This can be hard on the brain, so many people turn to biologically active supplements, which stimulate brain activity and improve cognitive abilities. Statistically, over 25% (that’s one in four) of working adults worldwide have taken a dietary supplement at least once. Due to such high demand, brain supplements have appeared in huge numbers on the market, all promising almost immediate and tangible effects.
In 2019, researchers at Harvard University conducted a large-scale study to find out which supplements really affect cognitive performance and which are just a product of successful marketing. As it turns out, an overwhelming number of substances do not have half of the properties that are attributed to them. Moreover, only three of them can boast of real effects.
Scientists have named omega-3 fatty acids as the key and most effective substance that can actually affect brain function and cognitive ability. They are essential for building membranes in brain cells, as well as preventing inflammatory reactions and reducing oxidative stress. Statistically, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is associated with a higher risk of severe cognitive decline as we age.
Next on the list of supplements whose effectiveness has been scientifically proven is vitamin E. A 2014 study published in the journal Nutrients confirmed the link between sufficient vitamin E in the body and a low risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is also a powerful natural antioxidant: it protects brain cells from damage and prevents neuronal connections from breaking down.
Three B vitamins – B6, B9 and B12 – also made the list of Harvard scientists. They are needed by the body to break down the substance homocysteine, high levels of which have been linked to an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, these vitamins are key elements in the process of brain cell renewal.
As for other popular supplements (from Ginkgo biloba plant extract to extracts from certain species of insects, which are actively used in folk medicine), their effectiveness has not been scientifically proven in any way. They may indeed contain a number of compounds beneficial to the human body, but no study has yet been able to find a direct link. That is why, if you want to somehow stimulate your brain activity, do not believe in advertising miracle remedies. It is better to see a doctor, have all the tests done and, if necessary, get one of three (or maybe all at once) really effective supplements prescribed.