Neuronal Energetics … Your Greedy Greedy Brain.
Your brain is a pretty demanding organ. You might even call it high-maintenance. Or to be more accurate, GREEDY: Your brain accounts for only 2% of your body mass, but it eats up 25% of your body’s energy. Specifically, your brain eats up about 25% of your body’s daily glucose. Why? Because your brain is a machine at producing energy from that glucose. All that thinking that you do requires energy. And if your brain loses that ability to produce energy, you thinking suffers. In fact, recenet studies suggest that declining neuronal energy production is central to development of Alzheimer’s dementia. Good News: Recent research shows that Lipoic Acid can delay this decline, and even reverse the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s! The following outlines how you can keep that machine running strong, well into old age. Welcome to Sacred Herbals BrainHAX™ articles. Be sure to check the article on Epigenetics Brain Hacks to Fight Cognitive Decline.
And your brain needs to crank out that energy: all that thinking, making synapses, and neuron-to-neuron talking – that all takes a huge amount of energy. And your brain is great at producing energy. Your neurons are packed with mitochondria, those little ATP factories, making energy from glucose.
Of course, that mostly applies to YOUNG brains. As your brain
ages matures, its ability to metabolize glucose and produce energy declines.
Associated with this pronounced energy deficit of the aging brain, we can measure the following declines:
- Loss of neurons
- Declining cognition
- Impaired memory
- Increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Here is how neuro-scientists describe this process: “Oxidative stress causes dysfunction of key energy-producing enzyme complexes in mitochondria of neurons.” This “hypo-metabolic” state of your aging brain is the result of the reduced ability of your brain’s mitochondria to generate energy. Activity of the enzymes that feed the tricarboxylic acid cycle decrease as we age. This results in neuro-degeneration.
In plain English: less energy, less ATP … sick neurons.
Loss of Neuronal Energetics and Dementia
Sounds bad, right?
It is bad: the loss of neuronal energetics not only worsens in the normal aging brain, but is particularly severe during development of dementia – Alzheimer’s disease.
The inability of the aging brain to cope with oxidative stress results in:
- loss of neuron-to-neuron connections (synapses)
- loss of neurons (brain shrinkage) and
- deposition of plaques and neuro-fibrillary tangles
Clinically, these changes are seen as impaired cognitive function and deteriorating memory (you become increasingly unable to think or to remember), and eventually, death.
So, you should be asking:
“Is there anything that can be done about it?” “Any way to prevent that depletion, or restore vigorous brain mitochondria?”
There’s Hope for Restoring Neuronal Energetics
As of 2013, a group at USC School of Pharmacy has discovered that lipoic acid actually restores age-associated loss of energy production in the brain. Here is the link for the pdf that you can download for free, for all the super-geeks among you who want to read the original study, published in Aging Cell (2013) vol 12; pg 1021-1031.
What about Ahzheimer’s disease?
Hope for Reversing Alzheimer’s Disease
As mentioned, the ability of the Alzheimer’s brain to cope with oxidative stress is severely impaired. Lipoic acid seems to prevent this loss of neuronal energetics. That is, lipoic acid seems to prevent the age-related decline in the enzymes that produce energy and counteract oxidative stress. Also published in 2013, here is the link to the pdf for free download for all you super-geeks, published in Redox Biology (2013) vol 1: pg 80-85.
Together, these reports suggest that regular supplements of lipoic acid (1) help reduce or slow the neurodegenerative effects of aging, and (2) help restore neuronal energy production. That’s all good.
Even Better News
Here’s the really exciting stuff: lipoic acid has been actually found to – pay attention here – to improve cognitive function in patients who already HAVE Alzheimer’s disease! That’s HUGE! Patients taking a daily lipoic acid supplement performed better on multiple psychometric tests of memory and cognition!
So, just to be clear: lipoic acid is available as an over-the-counter nutritional supplement; you can probably find it in your local pharmacy or grocery store. Lipoic acid has been found to prevent the negative effects of aging on the brain, and to reverse the effects of aging on brain energy-production. These effects are manifest as reversal of the clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia: patients taking a daily 600 mg supplement of lipoic acid were found to think better in measures of cognitive function. Lipoic acid boosts their memory and boosts their cognition!
I don’t know about you, but lipoic acid is now a part of my daily nutritional supplements. After all, I’m not getting any younger, and I need all the smarts I can get. Combine this BrainHAX™ trick with things like superfoods (including things like green tea and theanine) and the epignetics benefits of regular exercise (Exercise Makes You Smarter), and you’ll keep your brain running strong.
Since reading these studies I’ve been taking 600mg supplement of lipoic acid every day.
It’s about $1.60 per week – I think my brain might be worth even more. What about yours?
One way or another, Alzheimer’s is going to affect every one of us: NIH and CDC predict that every one of us will either experience Alzheimer’s dementia directly, or we will care for someone with Alzheimer’s. This is a devastating disease, one that is not a statistic, affecting other people – it affects every one of us in our lifetime. Do all that you can to prevent it!
Lipoic acid restores age-associated impairment of brain energy metabolism through the modulation of Akt/JNK signaling and PGC1-alpha transcriptional pathway. Aging Cell (2013) Volume 12, Pages 1021-1031: LINK: Lipoic acid restores age-related decline in neuronal energetics
Oxidative modification of lipoic acid by HNE in Alzheimer disease brain. Redox Biology (2013) Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 80–85: LINK: Lipoic acid and oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease