Boosting Brain Health: Do Supplements Really Help? (Part 1)

We’re all getting older. And while there’s not too much we can do about it, for most of us, our hope is that we age with grace, dignity, and some semblance of normal cognitive and physical functioning. Others also hope to preserve their youthful appearance.

When diabetes comes into the picture, things can get murky. By this I mean that some evidence points to the link between Type 2 diabetes[1] and a decrease in the ability to concentrate, problem solve, and provide thoughtful answers to questions. Other research indicates that people who have uncontrolled diabetes have almost twice the risk of cognitive dysfunction as people without diabetes. Why? It’s possible that constant high glucose levels impair small blood vessels in the brain, leading to ministrokes. Another possibility is that high glucose levels damage neurons (nerve cells) in the brain.

And not to spread doom and gloom, but evidence shows that people with both Type 1[2] and Type 2 diabetes have a 30% to 65% higher risk of developing Alzheimer disease compared with people who don’t have diabetes. Some researchers have coined a “new” type of diabetes, called “type 3 diabetes” that is marked by insulin deficiency in the brain. Folks at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University discovered that insulin[3] and certain kinds of protein are made in the brain; low levels of both can lead to degeneration of neurons, increasing the risk for Alzheimer disease.

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So that brings us to this question: What, if anything, can be done to prevent a decline in cognitive function? Is there anything that we can do, take, or eat that will keep our brains and nervous system functioning at a high level as we get older? The answer? Maybe.

Dietary Supplements
It would be so easy to pop a pill or two and expect miraculous results. The reality, though, is that, at least when it comes to aging, there’s not a lot of evidence that any one particular supplement can help slow mental decline. But it’s early days yet, and hopefully scientists will discover the fountain of youth. Here are a few of the leading candidates that have been marketed as “brain supplements”:

More next week!

Endnotes:
  1. Type 2 diabetes: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Diabetes-Definitions/type-2-diabetes/
  2. Type 1: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Diabetes-Definitions/type-1-diabetes/
  3. insulin: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/Articles/Diabetes-Definitions/insulin/
  4. antioxidants: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/nutrition-and-meal-planning/antioxidants/

Source URL: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/boosting-brain-health-do-supplements-really-help-part-1/


Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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