Brain functioning is multifaceted. It involves verbal skills, memory, speech, hearing, decision making, integrative functioning, and many more functions. How do antioxidant supplements improve brain function? Doctors in France at the University of Paris had a hunch that antioxidants could help prevent cognitive decline.
Antioxidants are part of just about every brain and memory supplement on the market now.
The researchers constructed a large double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial with 4447 adults between the ages of 45 and 60 years old. For six years, the participants took 120 mg vitamin C, 30 IU vitamin E, 6 mg beta-carotene, 20 mg zinc and 100 mcg selenium or a placebo. Cognitive tests were given to the participants before they started the antioxidant supplements and then at the end of the study.
Interestingly, these dosages are really not all that high. The amount of vitamin C that most people who are serious about supplementation take is 1000 mg. The vitamin E level is usually 400 IU. Beta-carotene is good to have in a supplement of any kind, and wouldn’t hurt to be in a brain and memory supplement. It’s almost always in an antioxidant supplement. Zinc and selenium are at levels a little bit above the daily estimated value, possibly enough to counter a deficiency over long periods of time.
The participants in the study who took the antioxidant supplements had better scores in verbal memory and executive functions. Executive functions are the ones in the brain that direct you to set goals, complete goals, monitor and change your behavior. These functions also are needed to think abstractly and adapt easily.
However, the verbal memory scores were improved only in those who were non-smokers or who had a deficiency when the study started. This really is no surprise since smokers have pretty clear vitamin C deficiencies unless they take vitamin C supplements.
Verbal memory is one of the only brain functions that improves in adults as they age, according to researchers in the field of learning. These results were seen worldwide and are called the Flint effect, named after a researcher who discovered the effect and followed it through several decades. Not surprisingly, in a Scientific American interview with Flint, he dismissed the possibility that perhaps nutrition (antioxidant supplements) made a contribution to better verbal scores in the older years and improved intelligence scores.
Some experts theorize that this is because as someone enters retirement, they are around people more often and call upon the use of verbal skills more often. But more and more people are realizing that their brain works better when they take antioxidant supplements or specifically designed brain and memory supplements. They notice a distinct difference in how they feel with them and don’t want to give them up.
And why not? When your brain is feeling optimal, you are at your peak in more ways than one. Antioxidant supplements and brain and memory supplements make perfect sense for those who want to glide through the older years in full consciousness.