Keeping your brain healthy into old age

Keeping your brain healthy into old age

Your brain is the most sophisticated and fascinating organ in our bodies. It’s our internal ‘supercomputer’, it has the important role of controlling every cell and process in our bodies. Our brain health refers to our ability to think, remember, learn, concentrate and perform everyday tasks. Caring for your brain and keeping it healthy into old age is highly important for its function and your overall health.

How your brain works

The brain is made up of dense and highly organised populations of nerve cells (neurons), which are connected in a complex three-dimensional network. Neurons are cells that process, transmit and receive nerve impulses (electrical signals). Each neuron contains 3 parts, the cell body, the fibres (carries the nerve pulses in to the cell body) and the axon (carries impulses away from the cell body). The fibres are insulated by a layer of protein called myelin to preserve the speed of the signals. Neurons are connected to other neurons via junctions called synapses. Brain neurons are connected to the rest of the body via the spinal cord, and similar to a phone cable it sends and collects signals to and from all tissues and organs at every second. The brain is also the signaling centre for hormone control, metabolic rate and blood pressure.
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Being the control centre of the body, the brain relies on a continuous supply of oxygen to function. If it is deprived of oxygen for just 5 minutes, brain cells will die. The brain receives oxygen from blood and around 30% of blood leaving the heart travels to the brain. Brain health is closely connected with heart and blood vessel health.

The changing brain: Brain development & decline

A surprising fact about the brain is that most of its neurons are made before birth. Our brains reach 90% of adult size by the age of 5. As the brain develops, it increases in the complexity of connections formed between neurons. This is called ‘brain plasticity’, our brain keeps changing, forming new connections and repairing old ones when we learn new skills and have new experiences.

As children learn and grow, their brains form complex networks at a faster rate compared to adults. This is the reason why children can learn new skills and store more information faster than adults. Our brains reach maturity in our 20s when our brain regions for reasoning, planning and impulse-control are fully formed.

When we reach middle age, our brain volume begins to decline slightly as neurons start to get smaller. Gradually short-term memory may be less sharp and reactions to complex stimuli (e.g. puzzles, calculations) may take longer to complete. Other factors that contribute to the decline of brain function include gradual decline in signal speed (neurotransmission), or factors that cause neurons to deteriorate.

Being brain healthy

Caring for your brain is particularly important once you reach middle age because this is when changes in the brain occur and a decline in function can result. Leading a brain healthy life means you need to look after your brain, your heart and your body. Here are some simple steps for being brain healthy [1]:

  1. Looking after your cardiovascular health: ‘What’s good for your heart is good for your brain’, our brain health is linked to our cardiovascular health. The brain is reliant on the heart for the delivery of oxygen via blood for its function. Research indicates that having diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and not treating them effectively, can damage blood vessels in the brain, affecting brain function.
  2. Get active: Regular exercise is good for both the body and the brain. Physical activity is associated with better brain function and reduces risk of cognitive decline because it increases blood flow to the brain, and stimulates brain function.
  3. Challenge your brain: Keeping your brain active is important for its health and function. Doing something new (e.g. learn a new language) benefits the brain because it strengthens and creates new connections between neurons. Keeping your brain stimulated throughout life is associated with better brain function and reduced risk of cognitive decline [2].
  4. A healthy diet: The brain requires a range of nutrients to function, therefore maintaining a healthy diet is important for brain health. Eating foods that are high in antioxidants (e.g. tomatoes, blueberries), polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats i.e. ‘good fats’ (e.g. fats found in fish and olive oil) are good for brain health.

How Pacobra® can support your brain (and heart) health

Pacobra® is a natural formulation consisting to support brain and heart health. Consisting of 5 herbs, Pacobra® works by providing the following main health benefits:

  1. Supports cognitive function: memory, learning, mental alertness
  2. Supports circulation: delivers oxygen and nutrients to the brain and body through the circulation of blood
  3. Helps manage stress: provides stress relieve associated with study or work
  4. Antioxidant: provides protection from oxidative stress for neurons and other cells

Understanding how the formulation works

Pacobra® provides the combined benefits of Brahmi, Guaraná, Ginkgo, Korean Ginseng and Schisandra. Each of the ingredients have been carefully formulated at amounts that have shown clinical efficacy in published research studies. Below are the health benefits and function of each ingredient:

Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi)

Bacopa has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine as a brain tonic. Bacopa contains compounds called saponins, which can suppress oxidative damage, regulate stress hormone activity and counteract inflammatory responses. Several studies [2-4] have found that Bacopa improves cognitive performance, memory, mood, the ability to multi-task, and reduces stress. Adults administered with 300mg of Bacopa per day showed an improvement in memory, cognitive performance and decision making skills [5, 6]. The Bacopa used in Pacobra® is from a high purity source called Bacomind® a proprietary standardized extract. Bacomind® has been clinically proven to improve audiovisual memory in children, and verbal learning in adults and the elderly [7].

Paullinia cupana (Guaraná )

Guaraná is a climbing plant native to the Amazon basin in Brazil. Guaraná extracts contain saponin, tannin and phenolic compounds which are responsible for activating areas of the brain that control visual memory and attention [8-9]. These compounds also provide antioxidant protection. Clinical studies in adults found that single doses of Guaraná (37.5-75mg) resulted in an improvement in cognitive skills, memory and mood ratings [8]. Other studies have demonstrated an improvement in accuracy and reduced mental fatigue [9-11]. The Guaraná used in Pacobra® is of Brazilian origin, and complies with European standards for purity.

Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgo)

Pacobra® contains a quality and standardized source of Ginkgo, manufactured by Network Nutrition (a leader in therapeutic grade herbal extracts). It is also compliant with British and US pharmacopoeia standards for purity. Ginkgo is commonly used in herbal medicines for its benefits in cognitive function and circulation. Diterpene lactones and flavonols, two main compounds found in Ginkgo leaves are responsible for these cognitive and circulation effects. Research studies have found Gingko to improve memory [12, 13] and circulation [14]. In a clinical study, elderly participants were given a Ginkgo daily dose of 240mg which resulted in an improvement in carrying out daily activities [15] suggesting it helped maintain cognitive function.

Panax ginseng

Pacobra® contains a GMO-free source of Ginseng in the formulation. Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a revitalising tonic. Found in the Ginseng root are compounds called saponins (ginsenosides) which are responsible for the cognitive function effects. Clinical studies found [16, 17] a 200mg daily dose of the extract resulted in improvements in mental arithmetic, memory, reaction times and accuracy in younger and mature aged adults.

Schisandra chinensis

A herb that has been used in traditional medicine for memory and stress management. Schisandra contains abundant lignans which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A scientific review found that Schisandra supplementation resulted in improvements in perceived energy levels, mood and reduced emotional tension and anxiety [18]. Pacobra® contains a GMO-free source of Schisandra that is standardised against its main lignan called schisandrin.

Synergies of combined ingredients

In clinical trials, various combinations of these herbs displayed a greater enhancement in cognitive performance when combined together, compared to when it is used alone. Combinations include Guaraná and Ginseng, Schisandra and Gingko, Ginkgo and Ginseng.

Summary

Brain health and cardiovascular health are closely linked to each other, hence, Pacobra® is a formulation that has been formulated to benefit both of these health areas. Consisting of five herbs (Bacopa, Guaraná, Ginkgo, Ginseng and Schisandra), Pacobra® supports cognitive function, memory, stress relief and circulation.

References

  1. https://www.yourbrainmatters.org.au/ Accessed 15/3/17
  2. Benson, S., et al., An acute, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study of 320 mg and 640 mg doses of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on multitasking stress reactivity and mood. Phytother Res, 2014. 28(4): p. 551-9
  3. Calabrese, C., et al., Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med, 2008. 14(6): p. 707-13.
  4. Stough, C., et al., The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl), 2001. 156(4): p. 481-4.
  5. Pase, M.P., et al., The cognitive-enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri: a systematic review of randomized, controlled human clinical trials. J Altern Complement Med, 2012. 18(7): p. 647-52.
  6. Kongkeaw, C., et al., Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on cognitive effects of Bacopa monnieri extract. J Ethnopharmacol, 2014. 151(1): p. 528-35.
  7. Natural Remedies, B., India Clinical studies on Bacomind(R). 2007-08; Available from: http://www.bacomind.in/clinical.htm.
  8. Haskell, C.F., et al., A double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-dose evaluation of the acute behavioural effects of guarana in humans. J Psychopharmacol, 2007. 21(1): p. 65-70.
  9. Scholey, A., et al., Acute effects of different multivitamin mineral preparations with and without Guarana on mood, cognitive performance and functional brain activation. Nutrients, 2013. 5(9): p. 3589-604.
  10. Kennedy, D.O., et al., Improved cognitive performance in human volunteers following administration of guarana (Paullinia cupana) extract: comparison and interaction with Panax ginseng. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2004. 79(3): p. 401-11.
  11. Kennedy, D.O., et al., Improved cognitive performance and mental fatigue following a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement with added guarana (Paullinia cupana). Appetite, 2008. 50(2-3): p. 506-13.
  12. Kaschel, R., Specific memory effects of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in middle-aged healthy volunteers. Phytomedicine, 2011. 18(14): p. 1202-7.
  13. Mix, J.A. and W.D. Crews, Jr., A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of Ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 in a sample of cognitively intact older adults: neuropsychological findings. Hum Psychopharmacol, 2002. 17(6): p. 267-77.
  14. Wu, Y., et al., Ginkgo biloba extract improves coronary blood flow in healthy elderly adults: role of endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Phytomedicine, 2008. 15(3): p. 164-9.
  15. Tan, M.S., et al., Efficacy and Adverse Effects of Ginkgo Biloba for Cognitive Impairment and Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Alzheimers Dis, 2014.
  16. Shergis, J.L., et al., Panax ginseng in randomised controlled trials: a systematic review. Phytother Res, 2013. 27(7): p. 949-65.
  17. Neale, C., et al., Cognitive effects of two nutraceuticals Ginseng and Bacopa benchmarked against modafinil: a review and comparison of effect sizes. Br J Clin Pharmacol, 2013. 75(3): p. 728-37.
  18. Panossian, A.G., Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am, 2013. 36(1): p. 49-64.