Aging of the brain

The brain is our most precious organ of our body. Our thoughts, emotions, our ability to reason and communicate with the outside world are all in danger if something damages our brain. Life in the twenty-first century is stressful, most people are struggling to keep up and are living with tiredness, anxiety, stress, depression and sleeping problems as a result. Some people tip over the edge into mental health problems – from attention deficit disorder to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In fact, there’s been a massive increase in the incidence of mental health problems in the world. Therefore, protecting our brain has definitely become a priority.

Age-related cognitive decline has been linked to free radical-induced oxidative damage in the brain. This common enemy has been strongly implicated in variety of diseases that wreak devastating damage on the brain and nerves, known as neurodegenerative diseases.

Common neurodegenerative diseases list:
  • Alzheimer’s dementia – Most common form of dementia among older people, it is a progressive disease that brain cell connections and the cells themselves degenerate and die, eventually destroying memory and other important mental functions.

  • Parkinson’s disease – A disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement. It happens when nerve cells in the brain don’t produce enough of dopamine, which is a chemical released by neurons to send signals to other nerve cells.

  • Motor neuron diseases – A group of progressive neurological disorders that cause the death of the nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and spinal cord that control the muscles that enable us to do physical movements.

  • Huntington’s disease – An inherited condition that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of cognitive function. It’s due to nerve cells in the brain break down over time, normally starts in a person’s 30s or 40s.

neurodegenerative diseases list

Oxidative stress and the brain

Oxidative stress is the one of the leading causes of the aging process. Several studies have shown oxidative damage to the mitochondria and DNA of the brain can lead to the malfunction or even the death of these very sensitive brain cells. Because brain cells do not have the ability to regenerate themselves, we lose more and more brain cells throughout our lifetime due to this oxidative damage, the brain simply does not function as well as it did when we were younger. In fact, there are several reasons why the brain and nerves are vulnerable to oxidative stress:

  • The normal activity which brain creates various chemicals to establish nerve conduction is a major producer of free radicals.

  • Relative to its size, the brain experiences more oxidative activity, which creates a significant number of free radicals.

  • The brain and nerve tissue contain relatively low levels of antioxidant. This is due to the blood brain barrier tightly regulate the movement of molecules and cells between the blood and the brain, which makes crossover of nutrients into the brain cells particularly difficult.

  • Millions of nonreplicable cells make up the brain. Once they are damaged, they are most likely dysfunctional for life.

  • The brain and nervous system are easily disrupted. A small amount of damage in a critical area can result serious conditions.

People don’t just wake up one day and have Alzheimer’s dementia or Parkinson’s disease. These neurodegenerative diseases represent the end stages of oxidative damage to the brain. When a patient is first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, more than 80% of the cells in a particular part of the brain called substantia nigra have already been destroyed. They are merely part of a progression that begins with the aging of the brain; when eventually enough brain cells are damaged, a disease starts to show up.

neurodegenerative diseases list

Protecting our brain – The right nutrients

Our brain has significant protection from the dangers of the outside world. The blood brain barrier lining is designed with very tight junctions to allow important nutrients with specialized transporting proteins to cross. At the same time toxic substances, infectious organisms, and most other nutrients have difficulty passing through this barrier. This keeps the brain isolated with only its most essential nutrients able to enter.

However, as a result of today’s environment and lifestyle, the brain is exposed to a significantly increased amount of toxins, and thus oxidative stress. The antioxidant defense system is no longer completely effective in protecting this vital organ. Therefore, additional antioxidants have the potential for diminishing or even preventing the damage increased oxidative stress causes. Let’s take a closer look at each important nutrient with ability to pass the blood brain barrier that needed to protect the sensitive cells in our brain.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is required for an enzymatic reaction that produces the neurotransmitter in the brain. It also has high concentration in the tissue and fluid around the brain and nerves. Vitamin C is not only a great antioxidant that can pass through the blood brain barrier, but also has the ability to regenerate vitamin E and glutathione, it becomes one of the most important nutrients in protecting brain and nerve cells.

Vitamin E

In the brain and other tissues, fat-soluble vitamin E has a key role in preventing oxidant-induced lipid destruction and is therefore vital in maintaining the integrity of cell membranes. Vitamin E has some difficulty in crossing through the blood brain barrier, therefore, high doses of vitamin E in supplementation is recommended in order to increase the levels in protecting the brain cells.

Alpha-Lipoic acid

This important antioxidant is not only both fat- and water-soluble, it also has the ability to cross over the blood brain barrier. Another important aspect of alpha-lipoic acid is that it can attach itself to toxic metals in the brain and help eliminate them from the body. Heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, and lead have been implicated in increasing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

Coenzyme Q10

A very potent antioxidant as well as one of the most important nutrients for the production of energy within the cell. Strong evidence has now emerged supporting coenzyme Q10‘s role of fighting oxidative stress and defective energy metabolism in the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Alzheimer disease.

Grape-seed extract

Studies show that grape-seed extract crosses the blood brain barrier quite readily. It is an exceptionally potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient, and the mere fact that high concentrations can be obtained in the fluid and cells of the brain and nerve tissue makes it an ideal antioxidant for the brain.

Essential fatty acids

Tissue of the nervous system has the greatest concentration of lipids in the human body. Essential fatty acids known as Omega 3 and Omega 6 are intimately involved in brain function, and deficiencies or imbalances in brain fats are now known to be associated with hyperactivity, schizophrenia, and depression. DHA in Omega 3 fatty acids influences nerve cell function through its direct maintenance of cell membrane fluidity and integrity, reduce vascular risk factors associated with cognitive decline, thus it can provide benefits to both cardiovascular and brain health.

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