Like your skull, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is one of the human body’s most impressive methods of protecting your brain. The BBB is made up of semi-permeable barriers and cellular processes which allow necessary substances like oxygen, infection-fighting molecules, and nutrients to reach the brain, while protecting it from toxins, viruses, and other destructive agents.
The BBB is made of high-density endothelial cells, similar to the cells in our capillaries. These cells can restrict the passage of any nutrients to the brain and is controlled through a biochemical process and the central nervous system. Though complex, the BBB is very effective for protecting your brain from toxic and foreign substances.
The BBB has been a major obstacle for pharmaceutical developers and drug manufacturers attempting to create new drugs to treat conditions that affect the brain. Fortunately, there are several brain-targeted nutrients that can cross the BBB to improve cognitive function, enhance memory, and support overall long-term brain health.
Lutein is a carotenoid that is present in both the eye and the brain so it readily crosses the BBB. Carotenoids are plant-based pigment nutrients that exist in leafy greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, and peppers.
Lutein is the dominant carotenoid in the brain. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, higher levels of lutein are shown to positively affect cognition, “consistently associated with a wide range of cognitive measures including executive function, language, learning, and memory.”
The best part about lutein and its related carotenoids (zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin) is they can be non-invasively measured in the body. According to the Washington Post, “Lutein and zeaxanthin are 100 times more concentrated in the macula than elsewhere, and their density can be studied using a fancy desktop ophthalmoscope. This measurement, called Macular Pigment Ocular Density (MPOD) correlates well with blood levels of the compounds and with the amount we ingest. Conveniently, MPOD also correlates with objective tests of eye and brain function such as how fast we process visual stimuli.”
Zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin are two carotenoids that are also concentrated in the eye and present in the brain. These nutrients are great for both sight and cognition and are able to cross the BBB. These are available through nutrition, though supplementation can better support your current health and help stave off future age-related issues like cognition decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin E is a proven antioxidant that can cross the BBB to protect cells from oxidative stress caused by destructive free radicals and reduce inflammation in the brain. According to research from the National Institutes of Health, “The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which increases during ageing and is considered a major contributor to neurodegeneration. High plasma vitamin E levels were repeatedly associated with better cognitive performance.”
Vitamin E supplementation may also serve to stave off Alzheimer’s disease, since sufferers typically have lower levels of vitamin E in the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds and protects the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically DHA and EPA, are stellar brain food. They’re considered building blocks for healthy cell membranes and support healthy memory, cognition, and emotional well-being. Research also demonstrates that a lack of these nutrients correlates with an increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Since our bodies can’t produce Omega-3 fatty acids naturally, supplementation is necessary to get enough of this key nutrient.
The brain health supplement Memory Health® delivers its patented brain-boosting formula through the BBB to protect and support your brain health. With a combination of plant-based carotenoids, Omega-3s, and natural vitamin E, Memory Health offers powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that reduce oxidative stress and fight off dangerous free radicals.
“Most supplements can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. If the nutrient doesn’t already exist in the brain like lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin, and Omega-3s do, you can’t be sure it will make it through the blood-brain barrier to provide any targeted nutrition.”
- Edward Shehab, Managing Partner of Memory Health LLC