Top 10 Brain Supplements for a Mental Edge

brain synapsesResearch has shown that taking the right supplements can get your brain in top form now and help ward off mental decline in the future. But there are literally thousands of supplements marketed as “brain supplements”. 

Which ones haven been proven to work and which are a waste of money? 

The top three supplements on our list — DHA, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 — are definite “no-brainers”! :roll:

While not as exciting as the latest “smart drug,” everyone needs to be sure they have adequate amounts of these vital nutrients.

Deficiency of any of these can cause both major cognitive problems and significant health issues. And experts agree that deficiencies of all three are rampant.

After that, the list gets a little more subjective … and a lot more interesting. After all, there are hundreds of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, and combinations thereof – to choose from. 

After spending  hundreds of hours of research and years of personal experience we’ve come up with this list of Best Brain Supplements

#1 DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that is the major building block of the brain. It is crucial to brain function and the nervous system.

Deficiency has been linked to many brain problems and psychiatric disorders. The Harvard School of Public Health states that 99% of the population is omega-3 deficient and that there is an unrecognized deficiency of epidemic proportions. (1)

fish oil supplementsIt’s widely agreed that taking an essential fatty acid supplement, specifically DHA, is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Memory loss, depression, mood swings, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and attention deficit disorder have all been found to improve with DHA supplementation. You can read more about its importance here.

It’s almost impossible to get enough DHA through diet alone (found mainly in wild salmon and some seed oils), so you should definitely consider taking a supplement.

If I was going to a desert island and could only take one supplement with me, this would be it! ;-)

A Tufts University study found that elderly people with higher levels of DHA are 47% less likely to develop dementia and 39% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s as people with low levels of DHA. (2)

When your brain slows down, life gets a little harder.
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#2 Vitamin D

sunflower needs sunshineAlong with DHA, vitamin D is close to being nature’s cure-all. It can lift your mood, banish depression, improve memory, and increase problem-solving ability. (3)

Having adequate levels has been found to be protective against certain kinds of cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. It is essential to maintaining bone density and thus preventing osteoporosis and life-threatening hip fractures.

If you think you get enough of this vitamin, don’t be so certain! It is estimated that anywhere from 40% to 90% of US adults are vitamin D-deficient and that over 1 billion people deficient worldwide. (4)

Vitamin D actually isn’t a vitamin at all — it’s a hormone. Sun exposure is the best source, but few people who live in North America can realistically get the sun they need year round. Most people need to supplement.

#3 Vitamin B12

If your memory isn’t what it used to be or you’re in a constant state of brain fog, you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. This is the most common vitamin deficiency in the US, particularly amongst seniors who often have poor absorption. People who eat little or no meat are particularly at risk, since animal foods are the only dependable sources of B12. (5)

If you suspect you are deficient, have your level checked. If it’s low, vitamin B12 supplements can bring your levels back to normal quickly.

You want to get this under control now. There is a strong correlation between dementia and Alzheimer’s and vitamin B12 deficiency. 

An Oxford University study found that three B vitamins — folic acid, B6 and B12 — when taken together prevent mental decline, dementia, and may even be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s by reducing levels of homocysteine. (6) Proper balance between the various B vitamins is important so we recommended you take a B-complex supplement for the long term instead of taking B vitamins separately.

#4 Antioxidants

blueberriesYour brain uses a disproportionate amount of oxygen — about 20% of the body’s total. This makes it highly susceptible to free radical damage. This makes antioxidants critical for your brain. They protect brain cells by neutralizing free radical damage and preventing premature brain cell aging. 

Antioxidants are almost exclusively found in plant foods with various berries being at the top of the list. Unless you’re eating the recommended 9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily, you almost certainly aren’t getting enough antioxidants to keep your brain fully protected. (7)

There are two excellent reasons to take an antioxidant supplement instead of relying on diet alone.

First, the best antioxidant sources aren’t foods that most people eat on a daily basis. Next, is that supplements contain highly concentrated extracts to give you more antioxidant power than you could possibly get from diet alone. 

Anthocyanins, the antioxidants found in berries, have been found to be particularly protective of the brain. (8)

#5 Vinpocetine

periwinkleVinpocetine, derived from the periwinkle plant, improves memory, reaction time, and overall mental well-being. (9

It works by increasing blood flow to the brain, enhancing the brain’s use of oxygen, and protecting the brain from free radical damage. It is these qualities that make vinpocetine promising as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. (10)

Vinpocetine has only recently become available in the US. It is very popular in Europe and Japan where it’s only available by prescription.

Doctors in Europe believe it is far more effective than ginkgo biloba, which is widely promoted as a brain and memory enhancer. 

#6 Alpha GPC

L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine, commonly called alpha GPC, is a more bioavailable form of choline, a B complex-related nutrient vital to brain development and necessary for healthy brain cell membranes. One big benefit of alpha GPC over choline is that it more easily crosses the blood–brain barrier.

Alpha GPC shows promise as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment and is used to enhance memory and cognition. It helps form acetylcholine, the primary neurotransmitter involved with memory and learning. (11)

When your brain slows down, life gets a little harder.
Discover the best ways to get your brain back on track.

21 DAYS TO A BRIGHTER BRAIN

#7 Bacopa Monnieri

bacopa monnieriBacopa monnieri is a traditional Ayurvedic herbal brain supplement that has been used for thousands of years to enhance memory, learning, and concentration. 

It also has a calming effect and has been used to treat anxiety, deal with stress, and promote better sleep. (12) It promotes formation of the anti-stress neurotransmitter GABA.

There haven’t been a lot of studies done on this herb, so many of the purported benefits are more a matter of herbalist tradition than actual science.

#8 Huperzine A

Scientists have isolated a compound in Chinese club moss that helps with dementia, depression, memory loss, and anxiety. This alkaloid, huperzine A, works by blocking a brain enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. (13) Acetylcholine is important for learning, memory and other brain functions.

It contains an active ingredient very similar to the popular Alzheimer’s drug, Aricept.

#9 Acetyl-l-Carnitine (ALC)

ALC is an amino acid that acts as another powerful antioxidant. Research has found that it can improve mental clarity, focus, mood, and memory and has a strong anti-aging effect on the brain. (14)

It also has been shown to boost the brain’s processing speed. This brain-boosting supplement has been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by protecting brain cells from toxins and oxygen deprivation.

#10 Ginkgo Biloba

Gingko biloba supplementGinkgo is one of the most widely used herbals remedies in the world. It is used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety. Many formulated brain enhancement products contain ginkgo biloba.

The reason I saved this supplement for last is because there is now some controversy about its effectiveness. This popular supplement was proven to not help with memory, language, attention, visuo-spatial judgment or executive function in a large, six-year study. (15)

What About Nootropics and “Smart Drugs”?

If you do much research into brain supplements, you’ll eventually come across the terms nootropic and neutraceutical. These words sound good, but what do they really mean?

Nootropic is a word originally coined to refer to memory-enhancing drugs, but now is commonly used with nutritional supplements to give the impression of enhanced benefits.

Nutraceutical is a term used to imply that a supplement has medical benefits.

There is no regulation of the use of these terms, so when you see them realize it is a marketing ploy that has no real meaning.

pills and money coming out of a prescription bottleManufacturers who promote their products as such are hoping you don’t know this! 

You can expect to pay more for a nootropic than for a comparable supplement with the same ingredients. 

“Smart drugs” brain enhancing drugs that supposedly are only available by prescription. But the truly initiated can find ways around this — usually by buying online. They are popular among college students and “brain hackers.” 

Learn about the pros and cons of brain enhancing drugs here.

Your Next Step

Now that you’ve learned about the best brain supplements, you probably want to get started.

But buyer beware! We’ve found that the companies behind many brain supplements spend a lot more money on marketing than they do on research. We were surprised to learn how few of these companies have any expertise in brain health. 

So we’ve compiled a short list of supplements created by reputable companies we know and trust (see below) that contain one or more of the nutrients in our top 10 list.

(Learn why Wellness Resources is our favorite source for safe and effective high-quality brain supplements here.)

These are products that meet our high standards as laid out in our 8 Point Evaluation Checklist.

We don’t recommend anything to you that we wouldn’t take ourselves. ;-)

Our Best Recommendations for Brain Health & Fitness

Wellness Resources Super Brain Booster

Wellness Resources Super Brain Booster
Brain supplement

Super Brain Booster is our top pick brain supplement. Proven ingredients increase brain chemical production and circulation for a brain boost you can feel. Reported benefits include improved focus, memory, mood, and mental energy. Safe and effective formula, from a company you can trust.
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Wellness Resources Brain Protector

Wellness Resources Brain Protector
Antioxidant supplement

Free radicals are constantly on attack, aging your brain one cell at a time. Brain Protector’s unique berry-rich formula is designed to improve memory, while keeping your brain safe from the daily onslaught of free radical damage.
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Wellness Resources Cell Defender

Wellness Resources Cell Defender
Immune boosting supplement

Astaxanthin, the most potent antioxidant known, uniquely protects the brain. Cell Defender's anti-aging formula boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, and increases energy while neutralizing free radical damage.
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Wellness Resources Vitamin D

Wellness Resources Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplement

The "sunshine vitamin" can lift your mood, banish depression, and improve memory. But up to 90% of adults are deficient. Don't be one of them. This formula contains the dosage you need to get results.
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Wellness Resources Super Coenzyme B-Complex

Wellness Resources Super Coenzyme B-Complex
B complex supplement

B vitamin deficiencies are common due to stress, poor diet, and poor absorption. Super Coenzyme B-Complex contains the most absorbable form you'll find anywhere for better energy, mood, and resistance to stress. B vitamins have been shown to prevent mental decline, dementia, and possibly Alzheimer’s. Now you can protect your brain for pennies a day.
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Wellness Resources Daily DHA

Wellness Resources Daily DHA
Omega-3 supplement

DHA is the "gold" your brain is starving for. But most omega-3 supplements are high in EPA and low in DHA. Daily DHA flips this ratio to be high in brain-boosting DHA. Mercury-free capsules are easy to absorb and digest. If you take only one supplement for your brain, make it this!
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Shop for recommended brain health & fitness products and services here.

Disclosure: If you click a link and buy a product, a portion of the sale goes to support Be Brain Fit. We never endorse products we don't wholeheartedly believe in. Products are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. See our Disclosure Policy & Terms of Use.

  • John Ronald

    My own personal regimine includes Briankrave, and dark
    chocolate; I sometimes follow coffee consumption with green tea. I wil
    soon be trying the Piracetam + Choline combo.