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Cogitating Cognitive Health Supplements

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Cognitive Health Cognitive Health

The category of brain support/cognitive acuity enhancement is heating up in demand by adults of all ages. Here’s how to give them something to think about.

It used to be that the brain health supplement category was targeted primarily to older folks who wanted to stave off age-related memory lapses. Adults in their 40s and even 50s weren’t really ready for it, but those in their 60s and 70s were and that’s who the supplements were marketed to.

Today—“nerd brain” rules. Generation Z-ers and Millennials are highly interested in supporting the health of their brains as well as finding natural ways of thinking more clearly, more quickly and sustaining that thinking energy.

Charles Ross, senior vice president, HH&N Americas/Aker BioMarine Antarctic US (Oslo, Norway) affirmed, “Cognitive health is a popular topic, and it is an area that is top of mind beyond the senior population. It is now more about taking a proactive approach for long-term solutions to health and wellness for healthy aging. We are also seeing cognitive health come up in younger demographics especially in relation to areas such as eSports in which mood, focus and mental clarity are all important factors.”

A growing number of consumers are feeling challenged by modern lifestyles and feel they need help to stay ahead of it all. “To thrive in today’s world, high-level cognitive performance and effective stress management are essential,” commented Michael Chernyak, president, CK Nutraceuticals, Ontario, Canada. He explained that healthy cognitive function involves aspects such as working memory, concentration/focus, and the ability to accomplish several tasks simultaneously (multitasking effectively). “Constant distractions are a key component of modern-day living—it’s imperative that we have the cognitive flexibility and performance to deal with this effectively. This cuts across numerous demographic groups—students, young professionals, busy moms, e-gamers, corporate executives, the elderly and more,” he added.

Maria Stanieich, marketing manager, Kyowa Hakko USA, New York, observed that within the expanding cognitive space, energy and focus are primary need-states for consumers. “A variety of people use cognitive health products for a variety of reasons. Younger consumers may be looking for improved focus and productivity. Weekend warriors and gamers want a mental edge to be more competitive. On-the-go working parents need help to juggle career, home and children without succumbing to stress-related mental burnout. Empty nesters and retirees are trying to defy cognitive and behavioral aging.”

One factor that is serving as the power train for the category is newer information and scientific theories.

“I think the emerging field of epigenetics is extremely exciting and will drive future research,” opined Lorena Carboni, scientific communications specialist, reproductive and women’s health, Gnosis by Lesaffre, France. Epigenetics is the study of how behaviors, lifestyle and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work, without altering DNA. “Evidence shows that epigenetic changes can affect cognitive functions,” she reported. “Also, recent studies have highlighted how epigenetic age is a relatively stable biomarker with strong long-term predictive performance for cognitive function.”

Chris Sadewasser, global product manager, Iowa-based Kemin Human Health and Nutrition, mentioned the “eye-brain connection,” which impacts not only vision but cognitive health. He explained that the eyes are a part of the nervous system and is an anatomical extension of the brain. Researchers in a 2021 JAMA Network Open study tested individuals aged 60 to 94 over seven years and found that those who had poor vision initially were more likely to experience cognitive issues with memory and attention. Researchers found that both the eye and brain have high metabolic activity and are sensitive to common insults like oxidative stress. “By addressing these connections, cognitive health moves beyond just talking about memory but encompasses how we can keep our brains healthy,” he said.

Vishal Shah, whole-time director, Nutriventia Ltd., India, pointed out that research into brain plasticity (also known as neuroplasticity) has yielded interesting results. Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to experience, and it has been recognized as a vital component of cognitive health. Researchers have shown that physical exercise, mental training and social engagement can promote brain plasticity and enhance cognitive function.

In the viewpoint of Ariati Aris, PhD, scientific affairs specialist, PhytoGaia Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia, there have been several significant advances in the understanding of cognitive health. “Advances in technology, such as brain imaging and wearable devices, have allowed researchers to better understand how the brain works and how various things affect it,” she said. “The market of wearable brain devices is booming, with promising benefits that range from improving mood to the betterment of age-related decline. This has led to new insights into cognitive health and potential interventions.”

According to Will Rowe, president and CEO of Nutrasource, Ontario, Canada, the tools associated with measuring cognitive function and overall brain health are now well established and have been appropriately validated and calibrated to support claims. “The role of isolation through COVID and social media as it impacts cognitive health is also a growing area that is becoming better understood, although more research is needed,” he commented. “These advancements and developments may have favorable impact on supporting individuals with stress and anxiety issues and may also enhance performance for those looking for an edge in cognition.”

Shoji Matsukawa, vice president of Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America, New York, also sees the pandemic as having impact on cognitive abilities. He pointed to a recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Mental Health comparing young people who lived through pandemic-related shutdowns against peers assessed before the pandemic. The results found the post-shutdown group reported more symptoms of anxiety and depression while their brains also showed thinning of the cortex as well as reduced volume in the hippocampus and amygdala—all critical brain functions that assist with cognitive processes like planning, self-control and accessing memories. These altered attributes mirrored neuroanatomical features typically seen in older people or those who experienced chronic stress in childhood—highlighting that these neural alternations could reflect accelerated brain aging.

The Mediterranean diet, long espoused and recommended for cardiometabolic health, has a role in promoting brain structure and function, according to Maïté Jeanroy, marketing strategy and communications manager, Activ’Inside, France.

“Studies that observed the acuity of people who ate the Mediterranean or MIND diet for example, advocated strongly that brain health can be maintained through the consumption of specific nutrients containing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties,” she said. The MIND diet was also associated with a substantial slowing of cognitive decline during an average of almost five years. According to this study, the main nutrients of interest for the brain are polyphenols, carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin A.

In addition, she reported, Bordeaux Population Health (University of Bordeaux) initiated a large set of epidemiological studies that showed that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of age-related cognitive decline and development of Alzheimer’s disease. BPH and Activ’Inside then conducted a study based on epidemiological data that showed that high consumers of a combination of dietary polyphenols, including grapes, had a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“The Silver Brain Food project was a product of these findings. Since its official launch in 2021, the Silver Brain Food project has produced three studies on brain health. The scientific data produced through this research also highlighted the role of diet in maintaining good brain health.”

Prior to the project’s funding and launch, Activ’Inside initiated and completed a pre-clinical study and human clinical study that showed significant reduction in human cognitive decline by incorporating high quantities of polyphenols.

Cogitating Formulation

There is undeniably an increasing number of ingredients to formulate brain/cognitive support products. Here are several.

Activ’Inside’s Memophenol is a patented formulation of grape and wild blueberry with a clinically proven triple synergistic effect, according to Jeanroy, and it is a result of a four-year international research program that identified the essential polyphenols needed for brain health and its mechanism of action. “Due to its high bioavailability, neuroprotection properties and antioxidant capacities, we discovered that the unique blend of grape and wild blueberry enhances and maintains brain health by improving neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity. These findings were published,” she said.

She points to gamers/e-athletes as a strong audience for Memophenol. Gamers require concentration and endurance but also a short reaction time and decision-making. Additionally, physical abilities, such as dexterity and hand-eye coordination, are also required for success in competitive gaming.

She explained, “There is clear evidence that flavanol monomers improve the cerebral blood flow. Memophenol was developed to be the optimal source of these smallest form of polyphenols. Better, the ratio of its ingredients allows a synergy; it multiplies their bioavailability by five. After crossing the blood brain barrier, monomers are found in the brain and improve cognitive performance.”

Kyowa Hakko’s Cognizin citicoline has several mechanisms of action that provide a path to multiple brain health benefits across the entire age spectrum, from focus to energy to memory and beyond, according to Stanieich.

“Cognizin is among the most clinically validated nootropic ingredients, giving it a unique edge against other ingredients used in cognitive health products,” she stated. Some of its science-backed claims include: enhancing overall memory, especially episodic memory (2021); attention and psychomotor speed increase (2015), improved focus for higher and better productivity (2012) and providing a more consistent source of brain energy for sustained functioning (2008).

Kemin’s Neumentix spearmint extract is clinically shown to improve cognitive function by supporting working memory (the ability to juggle many tasks and information at once), supporting focus during the day without disrupting sleep, and helping improve agility and reaction performance, according to Sadewasser.

He added that Kemin’s FloraGLO lutein, while traditionally used for eye health support, has also been shown to support cognitive health. “Evidence has accumulated showing that lutein is found in the brain from infancy onwards and is the major carotenoid in the brain. FloraGLO lutein has been shown to help improve cognitive flexibility, complex attention, reasoning and visual memory. Other studies have shown it can modulate cognitive function with positive effects on neural response and brain network connectivity,” he said.

Extensive research has found that pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) can stimulate the mitochondria and support cognitive performance, including boosting memory and attention, according to Matsukawa. Mitsubishi Gas Chemical’s MGCPQQ is a natural source of PQQ developed through a patented, proprietary bacterial fermentation process that does not include chemical synthesis. “Numerous studies have demonstrated MGCPQQ can help activate mitochondrial biogenesis, support cognitive health and boost Nerve Growth Factor, making it a powerful ingredient for healthy aging,” he commented. Previous studies have shown it improves selecting attention and focus, boosts short-term memory, reduces anxiety, low mood and confusion, and increases memory recall.

A new (2022) double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigated the effects of 20 mg MGCPQQ on cognitive function in adults aged between 20 and 65 for 12 weeks. Matsukawa noted that the results found that MGCPQQ improved a range of cognitive functions for younger adults (aged 20-40), including processing speed, cognitive flexibility and execution speed while older adults (41-65) showed improvements in complex and verbal memory. After the 12 weeks, he added, both groups demonstrated improvements in composite and verbal memory. “These results exemplify how PQQ can help different areas of brain function across a wide range of ages, highlighting how the inclusion of PQQ in a daily routine can provide numerous benefits regardless of age,” he commented.

PhytoGaia’s TocoGaia for brain health and cognitive support is a natural full-spectrum palm tocotrienols/tocopherol complex, extracted from sustainably sourced palm fruit (Elaeis guineensis), Aris described.

Researchers from Malaysia conducted a two-year randomized controlled trial with follow-up of changes in white matter lesions (WML) in human subjects who consumed TocoGaia. It was one of the largest human clinical trials on the palm tocotrienols tocopherol complex that looked at WML induced by a transient ischemic attack. According to Aris, the results demonstrated that natural full spectrum palm tocotrienols/tocopherol complex attenuates the progression of brain WML load in humans, which is linked to a reduced risk of neurodegenerative cognitive diseases and stroke.

“We have just started a new human clinical trial at the National University of Malaysia on the effect of a TocoGaia-enriched functional drink for cognitive health and healthy metabolism function, she reported. “We expect to have this trial completed by end of 2023/early 2024.”

PhytoGaia also developed a new synergistic combination of tocotrienols and plant squalene, that is naturally extracted from palm fruits for cognitive and brain health—STGaia.

CK Nutraceuticals’ cognitaven, said Cherynyak, “is a proprietary green oat extract exclusively produced by our partner, Anklam Extrakt (Germany).” A randomized, placebo-controlled human clinical study with more than 120 subjects demonstrated improved working memory and multitasking, both acute and chronic, with a single 430 mg daily dosage—this research is published in a high-impact peer-reviewed journal.

Prolanza from Nutriventia is a long-acting ashwagandha root extract, that, according to Shah, contains a broad spectrum of 20 withanolides. “Prolanza provides a sustained release of ashwagandha over 8 to 12 hours, and as such, is an ingredient that supports all-day stress management, provides cognitive support and supports sleep health. Shah noted that based on studies, Prolanza is easily targeted to consumers seeking stress management support, such as working professionals with demanding jobs, women who are juggling many roles, and students who are often stressed due to increasing competition.

“Prolanza’s demonstrated ability to improve cognitive skills, such as visual memory and working and sustained attention, may interest manufacturers targeting the nootropic and cognitive health supplement market,” Shah explained. “Additionally, Prolanza’s ability to significantly improve psychological well-being, promote calm and happiness and enhance the overall quality of life could be attractive to manufacturers targeting the mood and emotional health supplement market.”

Aker BioMarine’s Superba Krill oil, said Ross, is a natural multi-nutrient complex for cognitive health support. “New science shows that krill oil can help slow down aging and improve life quality. According to a recent study published in Aging, research teams from the University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital and Akershus University Hospital concluded that krill oil promotes healthy aging by slowing down many of the processes of aging in cells and tissues. The subjects that received krill oil (Superba Boost) did not lose as many nerve cells in the brain as they got older. They therefore preserved both memory and neuromuscular function and were generally much more active.”

SAMe (s-adenosyl-methionine) is naturally produced in the methionine cycle, and is part of a pathway that plays a critical role in the synthesis of DNA, neurotransmitters, phospholipids and myelin, according to Carboni. Lifestyle and aging can deplete or slow down the body’s production of SAMe, contributing to various imbalances in brain functionality.

Gnosis by Lesaffre’s Adonat Premium SAMe, she noted, can sustain cognitive functions on three different levels: maintain adequate levels of phosphatidylcholine, impacting memory, learning, attention; combat free radicals through the promotion of the antioxidant release; and work as an epigenetic modulator, supporting DNA methylation, which plays a key gene regulatory role in brain development, protection and functions.

“SAMe levels and methylation activity decline as we age, leading to a decrease in neurotransmitter synthesis, disruption of the methylation cycle functioning, increased inflammation and oxidative stress,” she explained. This could potentially lead to Mild Cognitive Impairment, the stage between the expected age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Symptoms are characterized by deterioration of various neurological and mental functions including memory, language and thinking abilities.

She added that another critical ingredient for cognitive health and function is folate, in the form of the biologically active 5-MTHF (Quatrefolic). “Several studies confirm that there is an association between mental vitality, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and the folate status of the brain, consequently on cerebral folate status, mood, and cognitive depression,” she commented.

New from PLT Health Solutions, New Jersey, is Nutricog Cognitive Performance Complex, which is a patented combination of haritaki (Terminalia chebula an extract of the haritaki fruit) and boswellia (Boswellia serrata), standardized to gallic acid, ellagic acid and amyrins.

“Today, we are seeing rapidly increasing interest in cognitive support for a broad range of lifestyle goals. Consumers are actively seeking everything from enhanced focus to reduced stress, improved mood, faster learning, effective memory, better adaptability and enhanced multitasking,” asserted Seth Flowerman, president & CEO.

In a study of 100 participants, those who consumed Nutricog demonstrated “significant improvements” in learning, memory, sustained attention, focus, sustained attention and executive function compared to placebo. Increases in cognitive speed were seen concurrently with improvements in accuracy while multitasking, and the earliest clinically significant benefits were found 15 days after commencing its use.

From California-based Sempera Organics is Clarity Core is a nootropic that combines the neuroprotective and pro-cognitive erinacines and hericinones from Hericium erinaceus with the performance-enhancing cordycepin and adenosine from Cordyceps militaris with the antioxidant components of Trametes versicolor to provide a broad brain formulation.

According to Nirmal Nair, CEO and founder of Sempera Organics, Lion’s Mane has been shown to enhance nerve growth factor and promote healthy cognitive function. CEO. An adaptogen, Cordyceps militaris helps the body adapt to stress and enhances performance. Trametes versicolor mycelium contains acetylcholinesterase inhibitors which promote cholinergic neurochemistry that may enhance focus.

Lion’s mane is the primary mushroom known for its nootropic benefits. “Buddhist monks use lion’s mane mushrooms to enhance focus and purpose in their study and meditation, as they may support sharp focus and feelings of calmness,” Nair explained. “Research has found that lion’s mane may protect the brain and promote clarity and focus, promote mental performance, and support the normal function of the brain and nervous system.

Matsukawa noted that according to a recent study, the global brain health supplements Market was valued at $8 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow at a compounded rate of 10 percent to reach $15 billion by 2028. “As people continue to make a greater effort in maintaining and nurturing their mental and brain health, consumers want to take supplements they know they can trust,” he said. NIE

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Advanced Brain Check

With Phil Grau, Chief Science Officer at Blocks Nutrition

NIE: How has the market for cognitive health products evolved and developed in the past five years?

Grau: The industry is seeing a positive shift toward personalized nutrition. The only issue with this is that many companies, especially DTC brands, are claiming to be “custom to you” but don’t have an extensive enough product offering or in-depth diagnostics to fulfill this claim. Blocks Nutrition is solving that in a big way. Our online brain assessment deep dives into many questions one would be asked during a consultation with a qualified practitioner. These diagnostics are interactive and thorough, and the best part is that they are free for anyone to take.

NIE: How do you feel that the major advertised brands, such as Neuriva and Prevagen, have affected this category?

Grau: Many brands are starting to understand the importance proper nutrition can have on overall cognitive health. While I wouldn’t speak on other’s manufacturing practices or quality control metrics, as a health and nutrition expert that cares very deeply about the welfare of my clients, I always have reservations when a company pushes one product claiming it’s a cognitive catch-all or offers a one-size-fits-all solution given the sheer complexity of the brain and its functions.

At Blocks Nutrition we recognize and respect the complexity of each individual brain as well as understand each person’s brain’s unique needs and interdependence on other body systems. All these systems rely on each other and need to be balanced to function normally for the body to truly have the opportunity to perform and function optimally. This is why we don’t just offer high-quality supplements but have also channeled the nutrition diagnostic process into comprehensive online assessments available and accessible to anyone wanting to better understand the signs of their body clamoring for equilibrium, and then target their body’s specific needs.

NIE: Please discuss the company’s cognitive-support products and ingredients.

Grau: Two examples of products with powerful ingredients we might recommend to support someone’s cognitive health and performance based on their online brain assessment are Brain Barrier and Brain Juice. Brain Barrier uses the patented, chelated mineral Magtein containing magnesium L-threonate. It is the best form for increasing magnesium levels in the brain and has been shown to support brain health and healthy aging, improve cognition in those with cognitive impairment, support relaxation and sleep, support memory and learning, as well as certain neurobehavioral conditions. Researchers at MIT even concluded that elevating brain magnesium via supplementation with magnesium L-threonate may be a very useful strategy to support cognitive abilities and decrease common age-related memory decline.

Brain Juice focuses on cognitive health and performance and contains a form of choline called L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (a semi-essential nutrient that supports brain health and mitochondrial function) that researchers believe improves memory, mental focus, and even reaction time in the young and elderly, and it has also been shown to counteract the age-dependent reduction in a number of brain cells and ACh receptors. Choline deficiencies may impact memory, energy levels, and mood. It is an important precursor for acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter in the brain and signal sensor in the rest of the body that is essential for muscle contraction, gastrointestinal motility and other tissue functions. The body typically does not make enough choline for all its functions, and many people do not consume enough in their diets to achieve adequate levels, therefore Brain Juice provides a great source of choline to make sure the brain has all it needs to fully support its cognitive functions.

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For More Information:

Activ’Inside, www.activinside.com
Aker BioMarine Antarctic US/HH&N Americas, www.superbakrill.com
Blocks Nutrition, www.blocksnutrition.com
CK Nutraceuticals, www.ckingredients.com
Gnosis by Lesaffre, https://gnosisbylesaffre.com
Kemin Human Health and Nutrition, www.kemin.com
Kyowa Hakko USA, www.kyowa-usa.com
Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America, www.biopqq.com; www.mgcpqq.eu
Nutrasource, www.nutrasource.ca
Nutriventia Ltd., www.nutriventia.com
PhytoGaia Sdn. Bhd., www.phytogaia.com
PLT Health Solutions, www.plthealth.com
Sempera Organics, www.semperaorganics.com

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