A few simple strategies for boosting brain function

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Earlier this week one of my blogs looked at some recent research which links walking with improved ‘connectivity’ in the brain. This finding, appears to have particular significance for the ‘ageing brain’, as walking appeared to mitigate changes in brain activity that can come with ageing and may impair experience of life.

One simple reason that exercise may enhance brain function is that it likely helps boost blood supply to the brain. Generally, tissues, including brain tissue, function more optimally when there’s more blood getting to it. But of course another part of this is what the blood is bringing. Good levels of oxygen and nutrients will also help ensure optimal function of whatever it is the blood is being delivered to.

I was interested to read about a recent study which tested the impact of taking a multivitamin and mineral on certain aspects of brain function and the effects of mental testing on mood and fatigue. The study, published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology, took 215 women aged 25-50 and randomised them to take a multivitamin and mineral preparation (brand name Supradyn) or placebo over a period of nine weeks [1]. At the start and end of the study, the women had their brain function assessed through a variety of tasks, including those assessing the ability to ‘multi-task’. The impact of these tests on mood and energy levels was also assessed.

The women who had been taking the multivitamin and mineral were found, overall, to perform better in terms of multi-tasking, and also performed better on other assessments of brain function too including mathematical processing. Also, these women fared better in terms of their mood and energy levels after performing the mental tests.

This research provides good evidence that nutrient supplementation has the potential to enhance brain function. Here, in no particular order, are some other things that can help keep our brains in good working order:

1. Hydrate properly

In practice, dehydration can cause a serious dropping off in mental energy. Drink enough water each day to keep urine colour pale yellow.

2. Eat a ‘primal’ diet

That’s a diet rich in meat, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, non-starchy veg and some fruit. This will help ensure a steady supply of fuel for the brain. Plus, the protein provides amino acids that are the building blocks of ‘neurotransmitters’ in the brain.

3. Keep up a good intake of omega-3 fats

The omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA appear to be important for optimal brain function. They can be found in fish (particularly oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardine, salmon and trout) and as supplements.

4. Get plenty of sleep

Sleep deprivation can cause quite-rapid deterioration in brain function. Aim for about 8 hours (depending on need) and consider getting into bed a bit earlier whenever possible.

5. Be active

A walk once or twice a day, particularly in some ‘green space’ can be enough to improve mood and boost brain function.

6. Get plenty of sunlight

Lack of sunlight in the winter is a major cause of low mood and low mental energy. Even on a dull day it makes sense to get some sunlight directly into your eyes. Some may consider investing in a device which simulates the sun’s rays.


1. Haskell CF, et al. Effects of a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement on cognitive function and fatigue during extended multi-tasking. Human Psychopharmacology 2010;25(6):448-61

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Walking versus running

I recently read an interesting editorial in the Journal of American College of Cardiology about the relative benefits of walking and running [1]. The editorial

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