Who wouldn’t want a bigger brain? I know that some may think that they have a bigger brain (although further conversation typically reveals the opposite…), what can we do to actually have a larger brain?
First and foremost is to avoid things that are known to shrink the brain. Some areas, like the hippocampus, is prone to shrinking. The hippocampus is responsible for feelings, short and long term memory as well as many other important functions. This region is greatly affected in Alzheimers disease, so bigger is better here.
There are several things that are well known to shrink your brain. These include:
- Excessive alcohol use dehydrates the brain
- Chronic stress shrinks the volume of the hippocampal region of the brain
- Even mildly elevated blood pressure
- Oxidative stress and cognitive decline
What else can we do to protect our brain and keep it healthy? The list is quite long, but there are many studies linking healthy lifestyles and brain health:
- Diet and risk of dementia
- Exercise drops risk of Alzheimers
- Diet changes lower risk of Alzheimers
This particular study adds more evidence for keeping Vitamin B12 on the list of brain friendly supplements. It is joined by CoQ10, ginko and probably a bunch of other nutrients I can’t recall right now…
This study was a little more interesting. I’ve never been a fan of checking B12 in the blood. It’s too variable–take a Vitamin B12 supplement the day before your test and the levels will be sky high. If you want a better look at B12 status, look at what B12 does. This can include MCV (should not be >90, although most labs are normal up until 100). Methylmalonic acid (MMA) and homocysteine are very good markers to look at how well Vitamin B12 is doing its job. This study found that serum B12 levels were not related to markers of cognition and brain volume, but MMA and HCY were related.
A little note about levels and types of B12 used. In general, the “cyano” cobalamin form of Vitamin B12 is considered inferior and may even undo some of what we’re trying to do with the B12. The “methyl” form is the preferred form for the brain and this is what should be used. Most cheap vitamins contain the cyanocobalamin, so make sure you read the label.
Given that absorption of B12 can be challenging in many individuals, especially as we age, I usually recommend a supplement with 2,000 mcg of B12, 800 mg of folic acid and 2 mg of B6.