Nootropics For Optimal Brain Health and Wellness: Much More Than Just Cognitive Enhancers

Nootropics have long been touted for their ability to improve cognition, however, that trend is beginning to shift. In recent years more and more focus is being given to nootropics ability to support overall brain health and wellness. The clinical and scientific evidence continues to accumulate, casting an ever growing spotlight on this diverse set of compounds. In this article we cover many of the brain-related benefits that nootropics can provide and also highlight the ingredients in Nureltro® that support important areas of optimal cognitive function and brain health.

A recent survey has found that brain health is a top priority for Americans. This is unsurprising in modern times, where the demands on our minds are constant and the need for optimal cognitive health and performance has become a necessity.

 

In response to this growing concern, a fascinating trend has emerged – an increased interest in nootropics. These compounds are often taken to boost memory, focus, and mood, however, more and more attention is being given to the role these substances can play in promoting better brain health and longevity.

 

Before we dive into all of the great benefits nootropics can have on the brain, lets first discuss what defines a good nootropic and how the definition is in the process of returning to its roots.

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The Growing Interest in Nootropics and Brain Health

In reference to the above mentioned survey, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is an ever increasing interest in nootropics when you look at the original criteria used to classify what qualified as a nootropic. To be considered a nootropic, a compound had to exhibit cognitive enhancing properties AND possess at least one brain health-related benefit. Unfortunately, over time the second criteria became somewhat overshadowed by the first – however, that trend is beginning to change and the use of nootropics now seems to have come full circle where they are again under the spotlight as substances that can improve overall brain health.

 

It is always important to keep in mind that cognition and brain health are two topics that are very much related and interdependent. The way that nootropics improve different aspects of cognition is always through some direct or indirect neurobiological mechanism. In addition, the way that almost all nootropics work is complex and many times the benefits of each become synergistic when combined with another nootropic.

Nootropic Functional Benefits

Although not the main focus of this article, it is important to keep in mind all of the cognitive benefits that nootropics can have. They include:

  • Focus & Concentration
  • Attention
  • Learning
  • Memory (Short- and Long-term)
  • Mood (Motivation and Stress)
  • Information Processing
  • Synthesis of Information
  • Logic and Reasoning
  • Critical Thinking
  • Abstract Thinking
  • And Many More!!

Let’s look at a few in depth.

Better Focus & Concentration

Different nootropics are known for their ability to improve focus and concentration. Whether you’re a student preparing for exams, a professional working on a complex project, or are just looking for a general mental boost, these supplements can offer a safe and natural solution.

 

The way in which nootropics improve focus and concentration is not fully understood, but a sufficient amount of clinical studies have demonstrated their ability to positively modulate these two aspects of cognitive function. One potential mechanism for the class of compounds known as “choline donors” (l-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine and citicoline (CDP-Choline)) involves raising levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) in different areas of the brain. A second for the phospholipid phosphatidylserine is through the stabilization of neuronal cellular membranes. Healthier neuronal cell membranes – better overall brain function.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Bacopa Monnieri, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine, Citicoline (CDP-Choline), Phosphatidylserine, and Ashwagandha.

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Memory Improvement (Short- and/or Long-term)

Forgetfulness is a common concern for many people. Many nootropics have been associated with memory enhancement, making them an appealing option for those looking to sharpen their cognitive recall.

 

One potential mechanism involves the stimulation of the cholinergic system where compounds such as acetyl-l-carnitine act as cholinomimetics, mimicking the action of ACh. However, this phenomenon was only observed in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment. An alternative, counterintuitive mechanism may exist in healthy individuals with the nootropic bacopa monnieri where it has been shown to decrease levels of ACh in the blood. This raises the importance of neurotransmitter balance in the brain and the question if taking acetyl-l-carnitine and bacopa monnieri together is better than taking each alone. The answer is complex and ultimately unknown, however it is likely that it depends on the individual. Mechanistically they may balance each other out, or they could act synergistically where one prevents overstimulation and the other activates the correct receptors in specific brain regions more effectively than ACh itself. Other theories about taking the two together are possible, but ideally, a well done clinical study would give us the answer.

 

Further cholinergic related evidence exists for choline donors like L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine and citicoline (CDP-Choline) to improve different aspects of short- and long-term memory in both healthy individuals and those with a history of cerebrovascular disease (stroke).

 

Another nootropic compound uridine-5-monophosphate has exhibited mild improvements in memory via an unknown mechanism.

 

As a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the brain, alpha-lipoic acid also has been proposed to improve memory, however clinical studies are lacking.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Citicoline (CDP-Choline), Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Alpha-Lipoic Acid.

In theory, any substance that has the ability to increase blood flow to the brain, or stimulate neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and neuroplasticity can improve overall memory.

 

The remaining full list of nootropics in Nureltro® that can improve memory is very extensive, as are the different ways they have been proposed to do so.

  • Polygala tenuifolia
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Ashwagandha
  • Glycine
  • Maritime Pine Bark Extract
  • L-theanine
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Bilberry Fruit Extract
  • Pterostilbene
  • Astaxanthin

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Nootropics For Optimal Brain Health and Wellness

Beyond the commonly discussed cognitive benefits, nootropics can also positively impact overall acute and chronic brain health ultimately impacting short- and long-term cognition. It is always important to keep in mind that these two brain-related areas, cognitive function and brain health, exist in a constant interdependent, cyclical relationship with each other. An all encompassing term often used to describe this association is brain wellness.

 

The question is what areas of brain health are important to support?

Well, the answer is straightforward but somewhat difficult to achieve because the way in which certain nootropics can improve different aspects of brain health is very diverse. Therefore, it is important to take a combination of compounds to cover all of these important areas.

 

Nureltro® contains many nootropics that support optimal brain health, more than any other brain-related product available today.

Neuroprotection

Antioxidants

The brain is the most energy consuming organ in the body and therefore is also the most susceptible to oxidative stress. Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS and RNS), the two most common oxidant stressors, can wreak havoc on different structural components of the brain as well as alter normal cellular function (i.e. cell to cell communication, intracellular signaling pathways, mitochondrial bioenergetics, gene expression, and even neuronal survival) [R, R].

 

Each one of our brains has a built in redox sensing and scavenging system, however if these defenses are overloaded or insufficient then different forms of oxidative stress can occur. Ultimately, if left unchecked, chronic free radical damage can lead to dysfunction and neurodegeneration. Therefore, mitigating oxidative stress is crucial for prolonging your brain and health spans.

 

The best strategy for taking nootropics to combat oxidative stress in the brain is to take a collection of compounds that stimulate the endogenous antioxidant enzymes of the body (superoxide dismutase/SOD, catalase/CAT, and glutathione peroxidase/GPx) and provide direct protection against oxidative stress [R].

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, L-Theanine, Bilberry Fruit Extract, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Anti-inflammatories

Neuroinflammation, like oxidative stress, if left unchecked can have serious negative effects on the brain. The brain fog that everyone experiences from time to time can mostly be attributed to inflammation in the brain.

 

There are a host of inflammatory cytokines – small proteins that can activate inflammation pathways and/or overstimulate the immune system of the brain. Taking nootropics that lower these harmful cytokines is critical for general brain health.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Polygala tenuifolia, Maritime Pine Bark Extract, L-Theanine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Coenzyme Q10, Bilberry Fruit Extract, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Detoxifiers and Anti-apoptotics (Anti-cell death)

Brain cells are very susceptible to toxin induced injury – resulting in a host of problems ranging from neuroinflammation to neurodegeneration where the death of neurons occurs in certain regions of the brain. These toxins come from a variety of sources, but most are environmental including: pesticides, air pollutants, chemicals, radiation, infectious diseases, and different “biological agents” such as mycotoxins and phytotoxins [R].

 

Few nootropics protect directly against these environmental toxins. Only Bacopa monnieri and Alpha-Lipoic Acid have been shown to protect against certain metal toxins in animals (i.e. aluminum and mercury respectively) [R, R].

 

It is a much more plausible strategy to take nootropics that generally protect the neurons in the brain from cell-death. These will help your brain’s natural defenses against neurodegeneration and support general brain health.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Polygala tenuifolia, Citicoline (CDP-Choline), Ashwagandha, Glycine, L-Theanine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Bilberry Fruit Extract, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Neurocellular Health and Function

Cell Membrane Integrity

The brain and body is made up of trillions of cells that must function efficiently day in and day out. One factor, especially for brain cells, that determines their ability to do so, is the overall integrity of their cellular membranes. Healthy cellular membranes allow brain cells to perform their primary function – regulate the proper movement of substances into and out of the cell.

 

Supporting neurons’ ability to form and preserve their phospholipid bilayers is the foundation of maintaining healthy neurocellular membranes and a host of nootropics have been shown to provide this critical function.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Astaxanthin.

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Trophic Factor Support

Trophic factors are small molecules that are released in the body to carry out a range of cellular processes including proliferation (new cell division), differentiation (development into a particular cell type), cell maturation, and cell survival. The two most common ones found in the brain are BDNF and NGF.

 

There are other trophic factors found in the brain, but these two are the most important and neuron specific (neurotrophins). Taking substances that have been shown to stimulate the release of these trophic factors is critical as they support cellular processes that are very important for lifelong brain health.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Polygala tenuifolia, Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Piperine.

 

** The clinical evidence for these nootropics is lacking due to the fact that BDNF and NGF are difficult to measure in the human brain. However, around half of the above listed compounds have several animal studies to support their ability to increase neurotrophic factors in different areas of the rodent brain.

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Myelination

Myelin is an insulative sheath around neuronal projections that allows for rapid and efficient communication between neurons. It is produced by specialized supportive cells in the brain called oligodendrocytes and is vital to proper cognitive function and brain health. Overall myelination also involves other supportive cells in the brain called astrocytes and microglia. Each cell type performs different functions to aid oligodendrocytes in the myelination process.

 

The main mechanism via which nootropics increase myelin production is by stimulating the formation of the above mentioned oligodendrocytes. Not the mature cells, as this cell type takes time to mature and integrate, but they increase the production of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs). By expanding the pool of OPCs, this leads to more mature oligodendrocytes and thus more myelination throughout the brain’s white matter – the myelinated superhighways of the brain that allow for rapid and efficient communication between different regions of the brain.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, Ashwagandha, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Bilberry Fruit Extract, Astaxanthin.

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Neurotransmitter Turnover (Synthesis, Release, Metabolism, and Reuptake)

The process that impacts the extent to which neurotransmitters exert their effects in the brain is intricate and heavily regulated. Therefore, supporting neurotransmitter turnover in its entirety is a much more effective and balanced strategy than simply targeting its individual components. Providing the brain with catecholamine precursors (norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine) or substances inhibit the breakdown of these neurotransmitters is not an optimal approach due to the fact that these nootropics have only been shown to be effective under extreme stress and depletion. In addition, it is not recommended to take the majority daily, with most requiring cycling – a practice that involves regular on/off days to prevent tolerance and toxicity.

 

Providing a steady supply of nootropics that target and positively modulate neurotransmitter turnover as a whole will help the brain balance levels of these key neurochemical messengers, resulting in more beneficial and longer lasting effects.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Polygala tenuifolia, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, Glycine, L-Theanine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Bilberry Fruit Extract, Pterostilbene, Piperine, Astaxanthin.

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Neural Adaptation

Neurogenesis

Throughout the brain’s lifespan, it generates, differentiates, integrates, and reinforces new brain cells. Neurogenesis is simply the all encompassing term for this process. Importantly, it is a key determinant of the brain’s regenerative capacity, a component thought to play a significant role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, along with the processes of synaptogenesis and neuroplasticity, it has been shown to have a role in memory formation and consolidation as well as mood. 

 

The creation of new neurons is thought to take place throughout life in certain regions of the brain and is directly linked to neurotrophic factors such as BDNF.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Polygala tenuifolia, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, Glycine, L-Theanine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Bilberry Fruit Extract, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Synaptogenesis

In order for newly generated neurons to integrate and become part of the brain’s neural network, they must migrate to a specific location and form “connections” with other neurons. This is achieved through the formation of synapses – tight junctions or gaps between neurons that allow them to communicate with each other. The inability to form new synapses may also play a significant role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Bacopa monnieri, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Polygala tenuifolia, Citicoline, Ashwagandha, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).

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Gliogenesis

Neurons are not the only cell type found in the brain. Glia are a group of different supportive cells that perform a variety of functions in the brain. The three main types that were previously mentioned under the myelination section of the article are oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, and microglia (immune cells of the central nervous system). Like neurogenesis, gliogenesis is the collective term for the generation, differentiation, integration, and reinforcement of different glia types.

 

Although less studied than neurogenesis, gliogenesis is just as important of a process throughout life. Neurons can not survive or function properly without their supportive network, glia.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Citicoline, Ashwagandha, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).

Neuroplasticity

At the foundation of memory formation, neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to transform and reorganize itself. Enhanced plasticity not only improves memory formation, but it also plays a role in the brain’s ability to adapt, particularly to stress. As we age our brains become less and less “plastic”, which is why it gets more difficult to learn new things later in life.

 

The overall process of neuroplasticity is not isolated and involves elements of neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and gliogenesis. The relative contribution of each varies, however each is important to support throughout life.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, Uridine-5-Monophosphate, Polygala tenuifolia, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, Ashwagandha, Glycine, L-Theanine, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Bilberry Fruit Extract, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Neurometabolic Status

Energy & Mitochondrial Function

The powerhouses of our brains and bodies, mitochondria are one of the most important cellular structures and their dysfunction has been linked to a host of ailments including neurological issues such as myopathies – a family of disorders that are characterized by muscle fatigue and weakness.

 

Mitochondria also have a lot of other very important functions in the brain throughout life – impacting overall cognition and brain health. On a cellular level, they play a role in axon development and regeneration as well as general synaptic function and remodeling. In addition, the mitochondria in glial cells of the brain provide important support for surrounding neurons [R, R]. 

 

Providing the brain with a consistent supply of mitochondrial supporting nootropics, with diverse mechanisms, can ensure it is getting what it needs to thrive. 

 

For instance, alpha-lipoic acid increases the generation of new mitochondria and provides co-factor support for energy production and metabolism. Another interesting mechanism by which a substance can support mitochondria function in the brain belongs to astaxanthin where it acts as a potent antioxidant, preventing lipid peroxidation to mitochondrial membranes [R, R].

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Citicoline, Glycine, Coenzyme Q10, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Blood Flow & Oxygenation

The supply of oxygen and nutrients is critical for healthy brain function and longevity. Acute and/or chronic hypoxia (low levels of brain oxygenation) and lead to long-term brain damage. In contrast, hyperoxia (high levels of brain oxygenation) can also injure the brain. Therefore, it is important to provide the brain with natural, safe compounds that prevent hypoxia without over oxygenating the brain with potent vasodilators such as nitric oxide.  

 

A great nootropic that protects the vasculature of the brain by acting as an antioxidant is bacopa monnieri. A second nootropic that acts by a more indirect mechanism – moderately increasing levels of nitric oxide – is maritime pine bark extract. As previously mentioned, too much nitric oxide can be detrimental to the brain, however, slightly increasing levels can be beneficial, and is much safer long-term [R].

 

Examples in Nureltro®: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Bacopa monnieri, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Citicoline, Glycine, Maritime Pine Bark Extract, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Coenzyme Q10, Pterostilbene, Astaxanthin.

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Methylation

Many molecules in the brain and body need to be methylated in order to become active and perform their specified function. One common example is the methylation of folic acid and folate into methylfolate. Methylation also plays a key role in gene expression, which is crucial throughout the brain and body.

 

Only a few nootropics have been shown to increase methylation with the main two being the choline donors l-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC) and citicoline.

 

Examples in Nureltro®: L-Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine (Alpha-GPC), Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Citicoline, Pterostilbene.

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Designed to be the most comprehensive brain-related product on the market, Nureltro® offers a creative solution in the pursuit of optimal brain health and wellness.

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