Build bigger “brain bank”

Your brain power is fueled by a natural chemical called acetylcholine. The problem is, we just aren’t getting the building blocks we need to make it.

It takes choline. And 90% of Americans are deficient of it.1

Choline is a macronutrient related to B-complex vitamins.

If you’ve never heard of choline, you’re not alone. This brain-saving nutrient wasn’t even recognized as an essential nutrient until 1998.

As you age, your body needs more and more choline. But unfortunately, as you get older your body produces less and less.

And when choline levels drop, you experience these symptoms:

  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Poor recall and memory loss
  • Brain fog and confusion
  • Sleeping problems
  • Irritability

Your brain has a huge appetite for choline. It’s the primary building block for acetylcholine.

It’s involved in many functions, including memory, sleep and muscle control. And you burn acetylcholine up 24 hours a day as your brain uses it to maintain clear communication among trillions of neurons.

Damage to the brain’s acetylcholine-producing system is linked to a number of brain disorders, including depression, dementia and even Alzheimer’s.2

Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago tested people with a choline deficiency. They gave them a series of memory tests and found below average scores.

In the next stage, they divided the same people into two groups. One group received extra choline, the other didn’t.

After 24 weeks, both groups repeated the memory tests. The group with the extra choline performed with flying colors and their results showed a dramatic improvement over the first round. The group that received no extra choline showed no improvement over the first round.3

Another study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition involving 744 women and 647 men found those with the highest choline intake enjoyed better cognitive performance.4

I advise all patients at my clinic to get more choline in their diet — whether they’re concerned about cognitive decline or not. Your best food sources for choline include fresh eggs, pastured chicken and turkey livers, bacon, grass-fed beef, salmon, pistachios, cashews and and Shiitake mushrooms.

Ironically, some of the same foods that today’s doctors tell you to avoid — like bacon, eggs and red meat — are the best choline sources around.

That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that the rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have continued to grow at an alarming rate.

But it’s always hard to get enough of what you need through diet alone. So I suggest supplementing with 500 mg of choline. I also recommend taking CDP choline, which is shorthand for cytidine 5’-diphosphocholine. This provides an easy-to-absorb form of choline, which the brain starts to use immediately.

Keep the Lines of Communication Firing in Your Brain

Choline isn’t the only memory supplement you need. Here are two more brain-boosting supplements to take:

  1. First, increase your DMAE. Choline works synergistically with dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) to produce acetylcholine. Studies prove just 50 mg twice a day improves brain function and puzzle-solving.5 It can also improve your mood, increase your attention span and prevent confusion.

    The best sources of DMAE are wild-caught fish like salmon and sardines. You need at least 35 mg per day.

  2. Then, sip some lemon balm tea. One of the most effective brain herbs I’ve found is lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). You might mistake it for a backyard weed. But studies show lemon balm improves memory, alertness and cognitive function.
    It works by increasing the activity of acetylcholine. When researchers gave young adults 300 mg of lemon balm it significantly improved their memory almost immediately. It also dramatically increased their math skills.6

    You can make a tea with lemon balm leaves or inhale the essential oil. But for best results, I recommend a supplement. Take 300 mg to 500 mg three times a day.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

Al Sears, MD, CNS

1. Zeisel SH and da Costa KA. “Choline: An essential nutrient for public health.” Nutr Rev. 2009;67(11):615-623.
2. Yotsumoto Y, et al. “White matter in the older brain is more plastic than in the younger brain.” Nature Commun. 2014;5:5504.
3. Buchman AL, et al. “Verbal and visual memory improve after choline supplementation in long-term total parenteral nutrition: A pilot study.” JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2001;25(1):30-35.
4. Poly C, et al. “The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;94(6):1584-1591.
5. Geller SJ. “Comparison of a tranquilizer and a psychic energizer used in treatment of children with behavioral disorders.” JAMA. 1960;174:481-484.
6. Scholey A, et al. “Anti-stress effects of lemon balm-containing foods.” Nutrients. 2014;6(11):4805-4821.