Food Ingredients That Prevent Cognitive Decline

Rapidly aging baby boomers demand mental health throughout life.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

The target audience for brain-boosting products is huge. With many populations across the globe dealing with aging baby boomers, who are living longer, underlying market demand for cognitive-enhancing products is bound to increase substantially in the future.

There are many ingredients associated with improved cognitive function, and they come with varying degrees of scientific support. The Fortitech Premixes division of DSM Nutritional Products divides them into five major categories:

  • Antioxidants (especially vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene)
  • Micronutrients (B vitamins, B12, folate, iron, choline, tocotrienol)
  • Fatty acids (omega-3 oils, citicoline, phosphatidylserine)
  • Botanicals (ginkgo biloba, ginseng root, curcumin, grape seed extract)
  • Other nutraceuticals (L-carnitine, flaxseed/lignan, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid).

And Fortitech can custom-mix any number of them.

Omega-3 oil gets combined with lutein and other ingredients in a new product from Neptune Technologies & Bioressources. As a result, NKO Focus supports both brain and vision health. The NKO stands for the company's core product, Neptune Krill Oil which, as the name implies, derives its omega-3s from krill, not fish.

NKO Focus includes up to seven times more astaxanthin than other krill oils, as well as 3 percent of the daily value of choline — a precursor of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter for memory. It also contains DHA and phospholipids, known to support healthy brain function, as well as vitamin A and thiamine (vitamin B1).

Swiss ingredients supplier Lonza published two early pilot studies involving memory and cognitive function in the November issue of Advances in Therapy. The research indicated soy lecithin-derived phosphatidylserine (PS) and phosphatidic acid (PA), as in Lonza’s proprietary MemreePlus ingredient, can support memory and cognitive function, which is especially apparent in those who have developed cognition deficiencies.

Since 2011 Lonza and its PS supplier Lipogen Ltd. have worked together under an exclusive distribution agreement. The pilot studies, funded by Lipogen, used a combination of 100 mg PS and 80 mg PA three times per day. The first study, a three-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with PS and PA in 72 functioning, non-depressive elderly with memory problems, demonstrated a statistically significant positive influence of PS and PA on memory, mood and cognition in pre-post comparison.

The second study, a two-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with PS and PA in 96 patients with Alzheimer’s disease, demonstrated a significant stabilizing effect of PS and PA on daily functioning, when comparing both groups. There also were some improvements in emotional state and self-reported general condition in the PS + PA group; no negative side effects were observed.

At last fall's SupplySide West trade show, PLT Health Solutions featured two ingredients in its cognitive support portfolio. Synapsa Natural Memory Support is the subject of six double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies in which healthy adults showed significantly improved performance in areas such as visual processing, learning rate, working memory, information retention and mental performance in cognitively demanding environments. The ingredient may provide two benefits: daily, long-term use to enhance learning and memory and short-term use to improve mental performance in cognitively demanding situations, such as test-taking.

PLT (formerly P.L. Thomas) says Zembrin is the world’s first patented, standardized and clinically studied extract of an elite selection of Sceletium tortuosum. Sceletium, known by the San people of South Africa as “kanna,” has been used for millennia for its stress-relieving and mood-enhancing effects. Backed by extensive safety testing, Zembrin has been clinically demonstrated to improve cognitive function -- specifically cognitive flexibility and executive function. One of the most intriguing aspects of Zembrin is that it is experiential – users “feel” its benefits, the company claims.

Here's a minty fresh brain ingredient. Last fall, also at SupplySide West, Kemin Industries launched Neumentix Phenolic Complex K110-42, a proprietary phenolic complex sourced from patent-pending, non-GMO lines of Kemin's own purpose-grown spearmint.

"Around the world, people are living and working longer than ever before, and more people are looking to optimize their cognitive health to help them perform better," the company said at the launch. In addition to the traditional randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in adults, the safety of Neumentix is supported by 14- and 90-day repeated-dose feeding studies in rats, Ames mutagenicity and chromosomal aberration genotoxicity studies and a 30-day human tolerability study conducted with the ingredient.

Blue California's L-TeaActive brand of natural L-theanine has been Generally Recognized as Safe since 2010. L-theanine is a unique amino acid found in green tea and is the reason why green tea drinkers can enjoy a mild relaxing effect, says the company. It reduces stress and anxiety, induces relaxation but not drowsiness and improves focus, mental clarity, concentration and productivity.

Blue California just completed a clinical study that confirms the benefits of L-TeaActive, although results have not yet been published in peer-review journals.

Kyowa Hakko USA Inc. focuses its efforts on Cognizin, its branded form of citicoline, a natural substance found in every cell of the body and especially vital to brain health. Citicoline is a water-soluble compound that supplies precursors for the synthesis of phospholipids, including phosphatidyl-choline, a major constituent of brain tissue. It helps maintain normal levels of acetylcholine, a chemical that regulates memory and cognitive function; enhances communication between neurons; supports visual function; protects neural structures from free radical damage; enhances metabolism and healthy brain activity; and helps sustain healthy cellular mitochondria for sustained energy.

Brain health is also critical at the front end of the age spectrum. Late last year, the European Food Safety Authority's Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies issued a positive opinion on a health claim by DSM Nutritional Products for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) regarding its contribution to brain development in infants and children.

The panel previously positively evaluated a claim on DHA and maintenance of normal brain function for an older population group. For this new claim, foods for older infants and children below the age of 24 months should provide a daily intake of 100mg DHA in one or more servings, while foods for children from two to 18 years of age should provide a daily intake of 250mg of DHA.

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