Why Fat Heads Are Fitter

Presents answers to question on memory problems. Supplements found in foods to improve function of brain's neurons; Amino acid that absorbs easily by brain cells; Diseases link to inadequate type of a fatty acid.

By Richard Firshein, published on January 1, 1998 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Q: I'm a 41-year-old computer programmer who works for a big softwarecompany. Needless to say, it's a very competitive, fast-paced environment, but lately I feel unfocused, foggy, and forgetful. I can't seem to keep numbers in my head as long as I used to. My aunt has Alzheimer's, and I'm afraid I may be at risk for it, too.

A: I've seen patients who come in with memory problems improve dramatically on a nutritional program. I recommend a cocktail of supplements, the first of which is a little-known fat called phosphatidylserine, found in eggs and soybeans. Your brain's neurons are particularly rich in this substance, and need it to remain healthy and to conduct nerve impulses efficiently

I also prescribe acetyl-L-carnitine, a special form of the amino acid carnitine. The acetylated form is more easily absorbed by brain cells, whose metabolism it increases.

Then, I recommend ginkgo, an herb that increases circulation in the brain and improves cognitive function. In addition, ginkgo may have a protective effect against Alzheimer's, so if you are concerned about a possible risk of that problem later in life, consider adding this herb to your regimen. An impressive study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October showed that ginkgo improved cognitive performance in a third of Alzheimer's patients who had been taking an extract of the herb for a year.

A diet high in fish may help protect the brain as well. The average American diet is low in a fatty acid called docosahexanoic acid (DHA), an essential component of brain cells. Alzheimer's, depression, and attention deficit disorder all may be linked to low levels of DHA, according to research presented at a recent conference at New York's Cornell Medical Center. Societies that consume high amounts of fish, such as Japan, have lower levels of depression. DHA is also available as a dietary supplement.

PHOTO (COLOR): Phosphatidylserine, found in eggs, and DHA, found in fish, are both valuable brain-boosting nutrients.