How To Enhance Your Brain #2

Unlimitix deciphers the science of brain engineering further

Unlimitix
Unlimitix
Jul 8 · 7 min read

Some small changes in our lifestyle, such as working out more, getting deeper and longer sleep, and being more curious can play a big role. In the long run, those tiny changes yield compound interest. A merely mathematical thought helps: Improving your productivity by 1% every day, will result in a prospective 37X productivity increase after one year. This has incredible implications and shifts our attention to developing the brain and our productivity in general, rather than our skill set. You might know these people who are just superb in what they are doing, may it be coding, studying or creative work, yet do not seem to invest more time than anyone else. It is likely that they adhere to many of the principles mentioned in this and our previous article. These practices may play a pivotal role in you being a completely different and transformed person in 10 years from now — more intelligent, sharp and skilled.

In our previous article, I investigated whether it is possible to enhance your brain, and if so, what the necessary steps are. For instance, your environment has an influence on your brain development, as proven by Makharia et al., who find that environmental factors such as physical exercise and educated parents significantly influence IQ scores (P < 0.001). [1]

Neuroplasticity, the phenomenon of your brain being able to adapt and change in correspondence to its environment, is one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century — and this article will dig deeper into how to leverage knowledge about this phenomenon. As our previous article found, BDNF is the factor that helps us build new neuronal pathways faster and strengthen current connections in the brain. If we increase BDNF release, we enhance our brain.

This article is another guide to maximising BDNF, particularly focusing on nutrition and dieting.

Nutrition

Research has found several substances that enhance BDNF production. After a thorough research, I will summarise those substances that do not invoke any side-effects, are natural and of which most people are deficient.

1. Omega-3

There are hundreds of studies showing the positive health benefits of Omega-3. The substance shows several positive effects on mood, mental health in general, physical health and BDNF release. [2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] One study in particular finds that after severe brain injury, rats weren’t able to bring their BDNF levels back to normal naturally, but Omega-3 supplementation did the trick. [10] Similar effects are shown by several other studies [11][12][13]

2. Magnesium

We encountered magnesium already when investigating deep sleep and ease of falling asleep. As we’ve seen in the previous article, deep sleep is indeed linked to higher BDNF production. Moreover, especially magnesium is known to increase BDNF levels in the brain significantly in general. [14][15] There are many rumors that magnesium L-threonate should have the most positive effects, but I did not find evidence for this. L-threonate is up to 7 times more expensive than normal magnesium and was developed by MIT researchers with 7 patents pending, which likely explains its hype. However, evidence for its superiority, especially connected to BDNF is still missing. I thus recommend to buy any normal form of magnesium.

3. Nutrients often associated with BDNF release

There are several substances we have looked into with regards to sustainable brain enhancement. Green tea, coffee, red wine, zinc, curcumin and many more are often associated with BDNF release and better brain functioning, but I did not find enough evidence to support this claim. Less is sometimes more — and what I can definitely endorse is omega-3 and magnesium. Both of them have no significant detrimental side effects and are a fantastic way to boost your brain.

4. Intermittent Fasting

Fasting in general increases BDNF. Limiting your calories to 600 every other day boosts your BDNF by up to 400% as studies show [16][17]. The most effective way of fasting, however, is intermittent fasting. The goal of intermittent fasting is to not to fast straight for a certain period of days. Rather, you fast for a certain period of time every day. Our recommendation is to eat within a 6 hour window, i.e. to fast for 18 hours every day. This appears to offer maximum benefits[18][19], but benefits in general start from 12 hours already. [20] If 18 hours are too brutal for you, try to start with less. If you’d like to give it a go, this article is a fantastic start.

5. Diets that don’t enhance BDNF or help with weight loss.

So far, there is no convincing evidence that other diets, such as the ketogenic diet or Atkins diet increase BDNF in humans. The simplest ways are, as mentioned above, to reduce calorie intake every other day or to fast for a certain period every day.

It is incredible how easy it is to enhance our brains by mere dieting and proper nutrition. It is as simple as that: Take magnesium and omega-3 every day — and make sure to fast from time to time. Combined with the knowledge from our previous article, you can drastically enhance cognitive functioning in your brain. Whether you’re up for an exam period or an intellectually challenging task at work — sticking with these tiny changes every day will yield compounded benefits in the long run, way beyond your imagination.

Sources

[1] Makharia, A., Nagarajan, A., Mishra, A., Peddisetty, S., Chahal, D., & Singh, Y. (2016). Effect of environmental factors on intelligence quotient of children. Industrial psychiatry journal, 25(2), 189–194. doi:10.4103/ipj.ipj_52_16

[2] Robinson, L.E., Mazurak, V.C. (2013). N−3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids: Relationship to inflammation in health adults and adults exhibiting features of metabolic syndrome”. Lipids, 48(4), 319–32. doi:10.1007/s11745–013–3774–6

[3] Montgomery, P., Richardson, A.J. (2008). Omega−3 fatty acids for bipolar disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (2), 1–23. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005169.pub2.

[4] Hegarty, B., Parker, G. (2013). Fish oil as a management component for mood disorders — an evolving signal. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 26(1), 33–40. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e32835ab4a7

[5] Ruxton, C.H.S., Calder, P.C., Reed, S.C., Simpson, M.J.A. (2005). The impact of long-chain n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on human health. Nutrition Research Reviews, 18(1), 113–29. doi:10.1079/nrr200497

[6] Sanhueza, C., Ryan, L., Foxcroft, D.R. (2012). Diet and the risk of unipolar depression in adults: systematic review of cohort studies. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 26(1), 56–70. doi:10.1111/j.1365–277X.2012.01283.x

[7] Appleton, K.M., Rogers, P.J., Ness, A.R. (2010). Updated systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of n−3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on depressed mood. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(3), 757–70. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28313

[8] Bloch MH, Hannestad J (2012). Omega−3 fatty acids for the treatment of depression: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Molecular Psychiatry, 17(12), 1272–82. doi:10.1038/mp.2011.100

[9] Stafford, M.R., Jackson, H., Mayo-Wilson, E., Morrison, A.P., Kendall, T. (2013). Early interventions to prevent psychosis: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 1–13. doi:10.1136/bmj.f185

[10] Wu, A., Ying, Z., Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2004). Dietary omega-3 fatty acids normalize BDNF levels, reduce oxidative damage, and counteract learning disability after traumatic brain injury in rats. Journal of Neurotrauma, 21(10), 1457–1467. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15672635

[11] Balanzá-Martínez, V., Fries, G.R., Colpo, G.D., Silveira, P.P., Portella, A.K., Tabarés-Seisdedos, R., Kapczinski, F. (2011). Therapeutic use of omega-3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 11(7): 1029–1047. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21721919

[12] Kris-Etherton, P.M. et al. (2000). Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the food chain in the United State. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(1), 179S-188S. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/1/179S.long

[13] Kumar, P.R., Essa, M.M., Al-Adawi, S., Dradekh, G., Memon, M.A., Akbar, M., Manivasagam, T. (2014). Omega-3 Fatty acids could alleviate the risks of traumatic brain injury — a mini review. Journal of Traditional Complementary Medicine, 4(2), 89–92. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24860731

[14] Pochwat, B., Sowa-Kucma, M., Kotarska, K., Misztak, P., Nowak, G., Szewczyk, B. (2015). Antidepressant-like activity of magnesium in the olfactory bulbectomy model is associated with the AMPA/BDNF pathway. Psychopharmacology, 232(2), 355–367. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25027582

[15] Abumaria, N., et al. (2011). Effects of elevation of brain magnesium on fear conditioning, fear extinction, and synaptic plasticity in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex and lateral amygdala. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(42), 14871–14881. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22016520

[16] Kumar, V., et. al. (2007). Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of Disease, 26(1), 212–220. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0969996106003251

[17] Mattson, M.P., Duan, W., Guo, Z. (2003). Meal size and frequency affect neuronal plasticity and vulnerability to disease: cellular and molecular mechanisms. Journal of Neurochemistry, 84(3), 417–431. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12558961

[18] Cioffi, I., Evangelista, A., Ponzo, V., Ciccone, G., Soldati, L., Santarpia, L., Bo, S. (2018). Intermittent versus continuous energy restriction on weight loss and cardiometabolic outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Translational Medicine, 16(1), 371. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-018-1748-4

[19] Mattson, M. P. (2005). Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: A neurobiological perspective. Annual Review of Nutrition, 25(1), 237–260. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.nutr.25.050304.092526

[20] Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ, 185(9), E363-E364. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3680567/

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