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Brain Nutrients
edited by Michael LeVesque

The human brain is the master control system of the body, weighing about 3 pounds, less than 2% of our body weight. The brain requires 20% of our oxygen and energy supply for the over 100 billion neurons (brain cells). Blood flow of oxygen, sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids is essential. Interruption of only 15 seconds can result in unconsciousness- 5 minutes-death.

Eating sugar reduces brain fuel

When high sugar soft drinks, candy or other sweet foods are consumed, the pancreas, told by the brain's hypothalamus, releases insulin. The insulin signals all body cells to take sugar from the blood. Usually, the brain cells use 50% of all the sugar (glucose) in the blood and the other organs will burn fat. 

Since the brain is such a small percentage of body weight, with insulin present it must compete with the other organs and muscles which weigh 50 times as much as the brain, for blood sugar (glucose). This results in too little fuel to the brain, and is intensified if there is not enough chromium to bind insulin with the cellular membrane. The results are low energy, and a craving for even more sugar.

Interestingly, a healthy non-diabetic person's circulating blood contains less than one teaspoon of sugar. With a modern high sugar diet, to pour twenty teaspoons of simple sugar into the bloodstream is easy at one sitting! Hypoglycemia, diabetes, mental confusion, and behavioral problems are at epidemic proportions and are the outcome of unsuitable blood-sugar levels.

Complex carbohydrates, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts are a timed-release form of sugar not requiring a large release of insulin to the system, not forcing the brain to compete with other organs for sufficient energy and oxygen.

Aging and the environment's effect on the brain

To burn sugar in the cell's mitochondria (power plant), neurons require adequate oxygen and other nutrients. The red blood cells deliver fresh oxygen with a chemical exchange of waste products. If the red blood cell loses its shape and elasticity, (most probably due to exposure to environmental chemicals or pollution or aging), the cell is unable to be squeezed through the small diameter of the capillary to the remotest parts of the brain. Also, as we age, the blood vessels supplying the brain tend to clog up (arteriosclerosis), reducing the brain's oxygen and nutrient supply, causing some forms of senility.

Oxygen is further reduced when it combines with fats, rather than with sugar, creating cellular garbage called lipofuscin. Lipofuscin deposits damage and even kill neurons. Free radical fighting nutrients such as C, E, beta- carotene, zinc, manganese, selenium, cysteine, glutathione and methionine reductase prevent the build up of lipofuscin. A study done with rats showed vitamin E deprivation resulted in higher lipofuscin accumulation in all areas of the brain and a significant impairment in learning.

Sugar is burned to produce the crucial ATP energy, on which the brain depends for its very life. ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate) molecules release stored energy to generate neurotransmitters, to transport proteins to cells, to conduct electrical impulses, to extend and rebuild brain cells.

Most brain ATP energy is produced through two interlocking metabolic cycles: the glycolitic cycle and Krebs cycle. The enzyme spark plugs required are B1, B2, B3, B5, Biotin, Magnesium, Manganese, iron, copper, lipoic acid, and CoQ10.

Nutrients and the brain-blood-barrier

Neurons are the only major cells that never reproduce and are one of the most toxin sensitive. The brain regulates every aspect of our lives and has a unique protective barrier called the "brain-blood-barrier" (BBB). It protects against metabolic wastes, drugs, bacterial poisons, and other mostly water soluble toxins. However, the BBB also interferes with absorption of most major brain nutrients such as C, B-vitamins, minerals and amino acids, which are also water soluble.

Therefore, one may often need nutrients beyond the RDA levels. Scientific studies show various mental or mood abnormalities are often the earliest signs of nutrient deficiencies, such as: apathy, depression, paranoia, anxiety, irritability, memory loss, etc.

One neuron equals one micro-computer

Usually, one thinks of the brain as a computer, but modern research is now showing the extreme complexity of the cell. Each of the brain's neurons is in a sense a micro-computer. Inside each neuron, nerve impulses are conducted electrically and when information is exchanged between neurons, chemicals called neurotransmitters enable the cells to talk to each other.

Neurotransmitters and nutrition

So far 60 neurotransmitters have been discovered, 10 of which are considered the major conductors. Here are seven common ones:

  • Acetycholine is essential for memory and controlling movement. It is made from pantothenic acid, choline, and the energy compound ATP, produced by coenzyme COQ10.

  • Adrenaline and noradrenaline promote activity, alertness and mood elevation.
  • Dopamine is essential for initiating the coordinating movement and sexual arousal.

  • GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter for aiding concentration and chronic anxiety and used for patients with Parkinson's disease.

  • Glycine is also an inhibitory transmitter, which with GABA, helps to prevent epilepsy.

  • Histamine aids sensory integration in the thalamus of the brain.
  • Serotonin is a calming counterbalance for adrenalin and noradrenalin, and induces sleep.

All of the major neurotransmitters are made from amino acids except acetycholine. For example, glutamine is important as the precursor for GABA, helping with intense focal concentration and the disposal of waste ammonia which is harmful at low levels. Tyrosine is a precursor of noradrenalin, adrenalin and dopamine, and has been used successfully in treating stress from overload or burnout. Tryptophan is a precursor of serotonin, and is converted to niacin if the body needs niacin. (Tryptophan is not currently available for sale in stores.)

Myelin sheath and lecithin

Certain nerve cells enclosed by myelin, an insulation made chiefly from fatty acids and cholesterol, are capable of transmitting impulses at incredible speed. Myelin production requires linoleic acid, as found in lecithin, along with amino acids, B2, B3, and especially B12, copper and manganese. I've experimented with most of our products

My own experience with brain nutrients has been very exciting. I have experimented with flower essences, brain power formulas, herbal extracts, glandulars, gem essences, singular nutrients, and foods. I have found Alive Energy's Calm Mind, Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy, B12, GABA, and niacin very effective for handling stress, and mental strain. Ginkgo biloba, L-glutamine, Alive Energy's Intelligence, Country Life's 4Thought, KAL's Deep Thought, TwinLab's Super Choline w/DMAE plus, Source Naturals' Mega Mind and bee pollen work wonders for me when I need extra mental concentration and energy. I also have great success with Jade Medicine's liquid extract Mind Peak.

One favorite I often use is Jarrow's PS-100 Phosphatydl Serine. Brain phospholipids, the primary constituents of the cell membrane, make the cell less rigid, more viscous and enhance the transport mechanism for neurotransmitters. In the evening I often use them with extra magnesium, zinc, B6, and B12 for enhanced dreaming in vivid colors with high recall.

Customers, especially students, have had very good results with phosphatidyl choline(PC), especially Twin Labs PC55 and Choline Cocktail, telling me their ability to learn and retain what they have learned significantly improved. (Alzheimer's disease patients who were considered hopeless, in terms of treatment, had higher scores on learning tests, improvement in memory, speech and daily living when given lecithin and phosphatidyl choline.)

Other nutrients that customers endorse strongly are spirulina, liver tablets, nutritional yeast, GTF chromium, chlorella, octacosanol, and raw brain glandular extracts. I have used all of these and found they work very well. Other general nutrients that are especially important are potassium, magnesium, zinc, the B complex, and C.

Every mental state is affected by brain chemistry, from sleep to euphoria. Supplying ourselves with brain nutrients is an excellent way to enhance and improve our own performance.

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