Nutrition for Cognition Pt. 1

Micronutrients and the Brain

Some years back, one evening my mother came to me quite upset. She was concerned that my father, who’d lost his own mother to Alzheimer’s, was becoming more and more forgetful.

My dad, then in his late 70s, had been quite the tinkerer in his day. He’d always had some project going. When I was a kid there’d be days when I’d come home to find the washing machine half-disassembled in the hall ... dad out searching for parts. He was the kind of guy who did his own tune-ups. He installed his own lawn plumbing.

But lately he’d taken to taking long naps. Things weren’t getting fixed around the house. He seemed to be on a downhill slope that meds weren’t addressing. Mom was concerned.

First I got him taking the Basic Four Micronutrients, the ones I’ve been discussing on and off since January (find out more about them here.) These four products, available in any good health food store (but not, interestingly, Whole Foods) resupply crucial elements research has demonstrated are missing in adequate amounts in our food today. Who eats five servings of vegetables each and every day?

Then I suggested three more advanced micronutrients: lecithin, CDP-choline, and phosphatidylserine (PS.)

Lecithin is the raw material from which the brain makes acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter of cognition. Not enough acetylcholine and we can’t think straight. Lecithin has a side effect that makes it even more attractive in a case like my dad’s ... it binds with cholesterol and carries it to the liver for elimination. (Atherosclerotic plaques made of oxidized cholesterol can build up and impair blood circulation in the brain, another slow contributor to dementia.)

CDP-choline is another acetylcholine precursor. It’s pricier than lecithin but as it’s further along the metabolic chain it’s a more efficient way to go. I was covering my bases.

Now acetylcholine is also involved in stimulating muscle contraction. So as my dad started on these supplements, I kept a close eye on things. I wanted in particular to make sure that he didn’t start having any muscle twitches ... a possible sign of too much acetylcholine.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) helps support healthy neuronal membranes. This is important because cell membranes control what gets into and out of each neuron ... and that has a lot to do with what goes on inside the neuron. Dementia appears in some cases to be a low- to medium-grade inflammatory disease. And inflammation slowly sandblasts cell membranes into uselessness.

This could explain some cases of dementia ... the brain slowly oxidizing and rotting away like a piece of cheese left out and forgotten on the counter. More on this next time.

So ... dad starts on his new nutrients. Sure enough ... within a week the naps had lessened considerably.

And the week after ... the report was that things were starting to get fixed again.

That was about ten years ago. Today my father steps a little slower, but his gaze is still clear. He’s taking afternoon naps again, but not like before.

And my dad, now pushing 90 ... has a new mac and is using it to explore the internet.

Important note: My dad started taking his nutrients before things had progressed very far. It’s much easier to prevent degenerative disease than it is to repair it.

Studies on nutrition for dementia have shown few positive results. That may be because researchers prefer for technical reasons to alter only one or a few variables at a time when they do their work. At times they'll dose folks with one or at most a few individual nutrients ... at other times they'll measure or estimate their intake ... while it typically takes a rich mix of missing nutrients to create a marked positive response.