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5 Essential Nutrients for Cognitive Health

Monday April 16, 2018
5 Essential Nutrients for Cognitive Health

With today’s ageing population, more and more individuals are experiencing cognitive decline, where memory loss, reduced mental performance and clarity become a frequent occurrence. Up to 20% of individuals over 65 are suffering from a mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (1). By changing up your lifestyle habits and supplementing your diet with researched brain-boosting nutrients, you may experience positive effects on your cognitive function. 

Rewind your mental clock with the following studied compounds that have been shown to promote brain health.

Phosphatidylserine (PS):

A critical component of the cell membrane, this phospholipid has been shown to promote memory, cognitive functioning, and concentration when introduced by supplementation. In a trial conducted on elderly individuals, PS supplementation (300mg/day) for 3 months significantly improved memory scores and mood (2). In another study conducted on 425 volunteers, PS supplementation enhanced behavioural and cognitive parameters (3). As seen by the research, PS may enhance functions that generally decline with aging.

Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC):

Derived from an amino acid that is naturally produced by the body, this active antioxidant may protect the brain cells from oxidative damage and contribute to energy production.  ALC may also promote healthy blood flow to the  brain, therefore enhancing cognitive performance, mental clarity, and working memory. In a 3-month study conducted on patients with dementia, ALC supplementation (2,250-3000mg/day) caused a marked improvement in cognitive assessment scales compared to placebo (4).

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA):

This neuroprotective antioxidant may protect the brain against radical damage, thus slowing down cognitive decline. ALA also has the potential to optimize energy metabolism, which may improve working cognitive performance. In research, ALA displayed promising memory-enhancing and cognitive-boosting abilities (5).  Although the evidence is compelling, larger human trials are required to assess the efficacy of its use in patients with cognitive impairments.


A natural amino acid found in tea, L-theanine has been widely used to encourage mental performance in many populations. In particular, l-theanine has been shown to promote the production of our ‘feel-good’ hormones – dopamine and serotonin. Thus, L-theanine can provide relief for individuals suffering from anxiety and stress, which can impact cognitive function.  L-theanine supplementation has also been displayed to enhance concentration and attention (6). 

Co Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10):

Also known as ubiquinone, this naturally occurring compound is found in the mitochondria, or ‘’energy-power-houses’ of the cell. Involved in the production of energy, CoQ10 is also a potent antioxidant, which may exert neuroprotective effects (7). As cognitive impairments may result from oxidative damage to the brain, CoQ10 may potentially prevent cognitive decline. 

Author: Salma Dawood is a Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc honours degree in Human Nutrition.


1)      Age UK, Dementia and Cognitive Decline Report, 2014, Available at: ttps://

2)      Kato-Kataoka, A., Sakai, M., Ebina, R., Nonaka, C., Asano, T. & Miyamori, T. 2010, ‘Soybean-Derived Phosphatidylserine Improves Memory Function of the Elderly Japanese Subjects with Memory Complaints’, J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr., vol. 47, pp. 246–55.

3)      Cenacchi, T., Bertoldin, T., Farina, C., Fiori, M.G., Crepaldi, G., and participating investigators. 1993, ‘Cognitive decline in the elderly: A double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidyiserine administration’, Aging Clin. Exp. Res., vol. 5, pp. 123–33.

4)      Gavrilova SI, Kalyn IaB, Kolykhalov IV, Roshchina IF, Selezneva ND. (2011) [Acetyl-L-carnitine (carnicetine) in the treatment of early stages of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia]. Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova. 111(9):16-22.

5)      Molz, P., & Schröder, N. (2017). Potential Therapeutic Effects of Lipoic Acid on Memory Deficits Related to Aging and Neurodegeneration. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8, 849.

6)      Akiko Higashiyama, Hla HlaHtay, Makoto Ozeki, Lekh R.Juneja, Mahendra P.Kapoor, Effects of l-theanine on attention and reaction time response, Volume 3, Issue 3, Pages 171-178

7)      Matthews, R. T., Yang, L., Browne, S., Baik, M., & Beal, M. F. (1998). Coenzyme Q10 administration increases brain mitochondrial concentrations and exerts neuroprotective effects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 95(15), 8892–8897.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Brain HealthBrain, Cognitive Health


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