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Re: Vitamins for brain health? Experts answer your questions.

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Message 21 of 47

@m466452a wrote:

Are Omega 3 good for brain health?


They may well be @m466452a.  The GCBH's report provides context and background that are helpful in understanding why the GCBH recommends consuming fish rather than taking an Omega 3 supplment.  The full report on dietary supplments for brain health from the GCBH is available  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/health/brain_health/2019/06/gcbh-supplements-report-english.do...

 

One of the consensus statements from the GCBH report is:  "Consumption of fatty fish, as well as other types of seafood, may benefit cognitive function. This may be due to their omega-3 fatty acid content, in particular DHA, but this is not proven. Overall, there is insufficient evidence to recommend taking a fish oil-derived omega-3 supplement for brain health."

 

But check out the discussion section of the report, reproduced below,  that goes in-depth into Omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil

Omega-3 fatty acids make up an important part of the membranes that surround each cell in your body. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is an essential fatty acid; the body converts some ALA into EPA and DHA. Your body cannot make these fatty acids, so you must get them from the foods you eat. DHA is a building block of the brain. ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean and canola oils, as well as nuts and seeds. DHA and EPA are found mainly in fish and other seafood. Fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are especially rich in DHA.

 

There have been numerous studies about omega-3 fatty acids and health including studies focused on heart health, rheumatoid arthritis and brain health, including depression. Research has found that people who eat more seafood have a lower risk of a decline in memory and thinking skills, including Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the GCBH previously recommended the consumption of fish for protecting brain health. For more details, see Brain Food: GCBH Recommendations on Nourishing Your Brain Health.

 

Omega-3 supplements, however, have not been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A few small studies have found that DHA supplements may benefit people with mild cognitive impairment, a condition that sometimes, but not always, leads to Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, there is evidence that the use of omega-3 supplements is effective in the treatment of older people with mild to moderate depression, and that women with low levels of omega-3 tend to have higher rates of depression with more severe symptoms. Levels of omega-3 may be affected by many factors, including fish consumption, and some research has found that those who have low levels of DHA may benefit from supplements. However, the weight of the existing evidence does not sufficiently demonstrate benefit, and we do not recommend omega-3 supplements for brain health. If you can’t or don’t eat fish, ask your health care provider about whether you should take a supplement containing DHA and EPA.

 

Omega-3 supplements are made of fish oil, krill or algae and are offered in a wide range of doses and forms. Independent labs have found enormous variation in the content and the quality of various omega-3 supplements on the market. Omega-3 supplements can increase the risk of internal bleeding for those with bleeding disorders or for those who are taking medications that keep blood from clotting, such as warfarin (Coumadin), so make sure you talk to your health care provider about possible interactions between omega-3 supplements and medications. The 2019 AARP survey showed that 20 percent of Americans 50 and older are taking an omega-3 supplement.

 

NOTE: Experts have not established recommended amounts for omega-3 fatty acids, except for ALA. Average daily recommended amounts for ALA are listed below in grams (g). 

Life Stage

Recommended Amount of ALA

Men

1.6 g

Women

1.1 g

Source: Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

 

Sarah Lenz Lock, AARP Expert Brain Health
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Message 22 of 47

Yes, that is the study I had seen and I appreciate the additional information.  While some of the info is very complex, I will read what you referenced and share it with my brother who is very interested in this to the point of taking L-serine and I am skeptical. 

Thanks again,

Mary Lou

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Re: Vitamins for brain health? Experts answer your questions.

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Message 23 of 47

Dear Dr. Coates,

Thank you very much your reply.

It seems you might have misunderstood my questions and for better clarity I thought I'd elaborate on them and where they are coming from.

1. The examples I gave were not random. Vitamins B6, B9 and B12, as well as Magnesium are all related to brain activities and are known not to be derived from daily food in sufficient amount. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but many sources say the majority of population only gets roughly half of them from the food they eat. Therefore my question was if supplementation with natural, whole-food grade of those nutrients in half of RDI dosage is a reasonable approach. If you have other sources saying that statistically most people obtain them in sufficient amount from normal nutrition, please kindly share those sources. 

Going to a health care provider just to check on the vitamin consumption is not something everyone can afford, both time-wise and financially. It also means such healthcare provider should be both an MD and nutritionist. The conventional approach addresses nutrient deficiency, aging related problems, including mental health for 60+ year old people and more from the perspective of if the diet should be changed to slow down or partially reverse the obvious negative processes, and / or to prescribe drugs. However instead of fixing the problems, it may be beneficial to prevent them at early stage and help a wider population take better care of their health already in their late 20's, when the aging processes first start and when vitamin and mineral deficiency is common as well due to the modern life style and not always healthy nutrition choices.

As a result, people just go for quick fixes with stimulants, non-prescription drugs or prescription drugs when the mental health problems have already occurred and are too obvious to ignore. There must be a better solution.

2. Just two examples of the compounds Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Lion's mane are certainly not unknown or not researched well, especially the former. I gave these example because there is a very strong scientific evidence for their efficiency and was hoping we could have a deeper discussion on them and other promising compounds. Yes, many of the supplements outlined in your report are among most widely used for allegedly improving memory and focus, yet they are exactly those that have been widely disproved by various placebo-controlled studies in vivo as not having their claimed health benefits, or simply not having any studies backing up the marketing claims.

Wouldn't it be beneficial for everyone to extend the study you've initiated, so that the GCBH report wouldn't be the final word from your organization on dietary supplements, but instead a beginning of something really valuable and regularily updated (based on new research findigns) in its coverage for the global community?

3. To my knowledge and I'm not new to this subject, neurotransmitter support is not a separate or adjacent topic, but an integral part of what constitutes brain health, memory, focus, mood and other mental activity. Prescription drug treatment is not really something applicable here, unless we are talking about mental diseases or disorders. Need for anti-depressants and other drugs that fix mental disorders is something we need to avoid in advance through healthy lifestyle choices.

Just to make sure we are on the same page, when we say "brain health" we basically imply (a) various aspects of neurons, how they function, their life span and other biochemical processes on their cellular level, (b) communication between neurons through neurotransmitters, which constitutes what we know is brain activity.

It is critical to have neurotransmitters and the basic neuroscience considered as an integral part of the discussion.

----

I actually represent a group of independent researchers and scientists, who have been researching the subject of brain health out of professional passion (without any affiliation to any related business). We completely agree that the source of vitamins and other nutrients should ideally come from well balanced (and possibly organic) food, physical exercise and enough sleep. We've been looking at the topic of dietary supplements as an interesting and full of potential, yet unfortunately quite messy and misleading. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to find the GCBH report / research published a few days ago, as it is in line with what we've been looking into as well, and we've hoped to connect with you for a productive discussion.

As for dietary supplements, yes there are many misleading, based purely on cultural and historical believes, coming from other fields (such as cosmetics) and automatically applied to nutrition by marketers or/and after quick insufficient studies. Most processes of how those isolates influence such complex mechanisms as those in our brain, are not even well understood, done in vitro or in very limited clinical studies, and there is still plenty of room for assumptions, theories and quick preliminary conclusions. When it comes to brain health, there is a further level of complexity related not only to nutrition, but neuroscience, processes within neurons and communication between them through neurotransmitters, other chemical processes within the brain, which all constitutes what we call brain performance and brain health. 

Many misleading supplement claims have already been disproved by the research done by the international scientific community, if we look closer at the available research data. The beauty of such continuous research is the foundation for the scientific progress and new findings that may discover, disprove or confirm what hasn't been researched well in the past.

We've come exactly to the same conclusions on those dietary supplements outlined in your report. At the same time, we've also found some strong scientific evidence for other dietary supplements, with some scientific studies and new information coming out nearly on daily basis. It may also not be fair to call all dietary supplements unnecessary, because it is a very wide category that includes amino acids, wholefood vitamins and super foods (e.g. spirulina, kale), plant extracts with beneficial active ingredients with scientifically proven efficacy, other natural powdered mixes of berries / nuts to add into your own whole grain cereals (to avoid fortified, overloaded with sugar cereals), common sports supplements with strong scientific proof, etc.

There are actually not so many dietary supplements and compounds that are claimed to contribute to cognitive health or performance and it wouldn't take much time to list them and go through them. Apart from those mentioned in your report. Wouldn't it be worth to review them as well, for the sake of covering the subject completely and assuming a possibility that there are positive effects of some of them on mental health? If we ignore them and close the topic, and don't go any further from here, we'll just let the misleading claims, unethical marketing practices, consumer's confusion, stimulants (like coffee and energy drinks) dominate the area of brain health / energy / performance.

The caffeine's activity and its insane global consumption alone should be alarming. How many people know the exact effect of caffeine on our brain, that it fools our adenosine receptors and not let the nerve cells naturally rest, that is causes neuron firing and the release of adrenaline, that it temporarily increases dopamine levels just like an addiction drug, that when the caffeine-induced adrenaline wears off, we face fatigue and even depression, and that caffeine stays in our blood for hours, so if we consume it late afternoon, it'll still be in our blood when we go to bed, and may prevent to go into a deep sleep, which is important for quality sleep and as a result for many aspects of our health, brain health included.

A mass majority of population has no idea about this. It would be natural to explore better solutions through dietary supplements with strong scientific efficacy on brain cell health and healthy neurotransmitter activity in natural way, and not as aggressive stimulants like caffeine. Even if not for dementia prevention, but at least as a better brain supplement than all the stimulants most people take on daily basis unaware of their health harms. 

We hope we could continue this discussion either in this forum or through a more private conversation, and jointly look into this subject to find a better solution.

Look forward to the continued discussion with you and other members of GCBH.

Paul R.

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Re: Vitamins for brain health? Experts answer your questions.

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Message 24 of 47

@MarylouD497081 wrote:

I am interested in the studies on amino acids and brain health. I would like to know more about L-serene in particular and its effect on the brain in an Alzheimer's study I came across. Can't remember who was doing the study, but it sounded intriguing. 


@MarylouD497081, thank you for your question about L-serine.  We get this question a lot and we have a CognitiveVitality rating page for L-serine in case you are interested in taking a look: https://www.alzdiscovery.org/cognitive-vitality/ratings/l-serine


So far, L-serine (an amino acid) may be beneficial in two conditions based on available evidence.  One is if you have been exposed to a neurotoxin called BMAA and the other is if you have a specific condition called hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1.  The clinical trial in Alzheimer’s disease that you mention is ongoing so we don’t have the verdict yet for Alzheimer’s.


BMAA (beta-methylamino-L-alanine) is a neurotoxin produced by bacteria in marine and freshwater environments—its levels are high in certain aquatic organisms as well as in organisms that feed on these species.  The most famous example of exposure to BMAA is the Chamorro people of Guam, who consumed bats that had high levels of BMAA—these people had high incidences of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson’s disease.  BMAA is neurotoxic because it can be mistaken by cellular machinery for the amino acid L-serine and be misincorporated into proteins, leading to protein misfolding, aggregation, and cell death.  In a study in vervets that were fed BMAA, co-treatment with L-serine reduced levels of a form of protein aggregation called neurofibrillary tangles.  So if you are exposed to the neurotoxin BMAA, then L-serine treatment may be helpful, because having excess L-serine in the system will compete with and prevent the incorporation of BMAA into proteins. 


The other example where L-serine may potentially be beneficial is in patients who have a specific condition called hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1.  Earlier this year, results from a small study was published in the journal Neurology (http://n.neurology.org/content/92/4/e359.abstract).  It was a small study of 16 patients and high-dose L-serine treatment appeared safe and preliminary data indicated that it is possibly effective at slowing disease worsening.  The hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1 is caused by mutations in a gene (SPTLC1 gene) encoding an enzyme (serine palmitoyltransferase) that catalyzes the reaction of palmitoyl-CoA with serine to form sphinganine.  Mutations in this SPTLC1 gene result in reduced affinity for L-serine, leading to reactions of palmitoyl-CoA with two other amino acids, alanine and glycine, the products of which form neurotoxic sphingolipids.  The rationale for this trial was to supplement large amounts of L-serine so that the enzyme can correctly catalyze the reaction of palmitoyl-CoA with L-serine.  Again, L-serine treatment was used to compete with the other amino acids alanine and glycine to prevent the formation of neurotoxic chemicals. 


With regards to Alzheimer’s disease, it is not clear yet whether L-serine would be beneficial.  L-serine levels in the fluid that bathes the brain (cerebral spinal fluid) are not significantly different between Alzheimer’s disease patients versus healthy controls.  L-serine levels were also not associated with cognitive functions/scores.  The clinical trial you mention for Alzheimer’s disease is currently taking place at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and you can find its details here: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03062449 


They are currently recruiting participants and their estimated clinical trial completion is in August 2019, so we will learn if it is beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease once their results are announced.  

 

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Message 25 of 47

Are Omega 3 good for brain health?

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Message 26 of 47

I don't know where I'd be if it weren't for bluegreenfoods supplements.

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Message 27 of 47

I agree, have had similar experiences with IBS, and doctors didn’t help. I’m now better thanks to diet and probiotics!

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Message 28 of 47

I am interested in the studies on amino acids and brain health. I would like to know more about L-serene in particular and its effect on the brain in an Alzheimer's study I came across. Can't remember who was doing the study, but it sounded intriguing. 

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Message 29 of 47

I find the "evidence review" of the "report" to be ludicrous. 

It takes aarp would publish such **.

 

BTW, Ginko has been used in China for centuries.  

I personally can tell the difference when using it.

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Message 30 of 47

I wish AARP would do an article for us common folk , on how to detect  Bias in so called scientific studies..  Just because a new scientific research paper says one thing does not make it a fact!!  New scientific research is being continualy updated changing the scientific paradigm  of past research. Also I believe AARP needs to educate the public on questioning all so called scientific research as to whether it maybe biased toward one out come or another due to economic considerations...  Not saying this research study was sponsored by Big Pharma or not, but that the general public needs to take all scientific research with the proverbial " grain of salt"...  For example the title of  this article may suggest some bias against supplements for brain health.. You could have titled the same article  DHA and BVitamins may help cognition for elderly patients, instead the article title annouces to "Pan All supplements for cognitive support"    This to me suggests the possiblity of some type of bias in the article, maybe even in the research..Personally I only act when I see a number research papers on a topic agreeing on a similar outcome..  

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