Protecting the 'middle-aging' brain: Combination herbal extract might help

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© peepo / GettyImages
© peepo / GettyImages

Related tags Bacopa monnieri Ginseng Coffee Cognitive function mood

A blend of Bacopa, ginseng and whole coffee fruit may boost brain efficiency in middle-age by improving positive mood and memory function, according to a new study funded by Usana Health Sciences.

Writing in the journal Nutritional Neurosciences​, researchers from the NeuroHealth Lab at Central Queensland University (Australia), reported findings from a four-week supplement intervention and two-week follow-up study that assessed changes in affect, cognition, cerebral hemodynamic response and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in a healthy group of adults between the ages of 35 and 65. 

The study builds on previous Usana-funded research​ showing that acute supplementation with the branded blend (Usana CopaPrime+) improved mental efficiency, accuracy and response times during mentally demanding tasks in a group of healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 60.

An amenable shift in brain aging 

According to a recent review entitled “The ‘middle-aging’ brain”​ by neuroscientists at the University College Cork and the University of Amsterdam, middle age is an understudied period of life but is increasingly thought to mark a possible shift in brain aging that is still amenable to intervention.

“The fifth and sixth decades of human life are emerging as being more than a mere interlude between adulthood and advanced age,” they wrote. “Instead, non-linear trajectories at multiple levels of biology suggest that the brain may go through a phase of 'middle aging.' Ultimately, these changes could shape future cognitive aging.” 

Gradual and individual biological changes in gene regulation are attributable to factors like stress, damage and menopause, affecting functions like reaction time, memory and communication between different areas of the brain.

The authors on the Usana study suggest that supplementation with the commercially available CopaPrime+ blend of 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri ​(Bacognize from Verdure Sciences), 100 mg of Panax quinquefolius​ ginseng (Cereboost from Naturex/Givaudan) and 100 mg of a whole coffee fruit extract (Neurofactor from FutureCeuticals) could work together to support protective and collaborative neural mechanisms and brain processes.

“The potential synergistic effects of polyphenolic compounds on neurocognitive function in middle-aged adults through emotional-cognitive processing and cognitive reserve are important for promoting brain and cognitive health,” they wrote.

Study details

The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial recruited a group of 60 healthy adults (46 females, 14 males) between the ages of 35 and 65 and randomly administered either the CopaPrime+ supplement or a microcrystalline cellulose placebo. 

The 52 participants who completed the trial performed a battery of cognitive and mood tests at baseline, 28 days post intervention and 14 days post washout. Brain activity, including hemodynamic response in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), was assessed using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) at these timepoints.

“The findings suggest the additional bioavailable polyphenolic substrates contributed to a cognitive reserve that facilitated better delayed recall memory, possibly through promoting neural efficiency in concert with overlapping processes of the pre-frontal brain regions involved in emotional regulation and increased positive affect in middle-aged adults,” the study reported.

Regarding a lack of detectable changes in serum BDNF (a measure of brain plasticity), the researchers suggested it might be due to environmental constraints, including and not limited to pandemic lockdown and exposure to the coronavirus, inadequate overall dose in this age group and overall health status at baseline.

They recommended that further integrated research explore the effects of nutritional interventions on cognitive-emotional processes in middle-aged adults and to decipher the effects of an optimal dose and timeframe for supplementation to promote brain health into older adulthood.

Source: Nutritional Neuroscience
doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2024.2325227
“Neurocognitive effects a combined polyphenolic-rich herbal extract in healthy middle-aged adults – a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study”
Authors: Tabitha Best et al.

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