It is said that the habits of a lifetime shine forth in our golden years. As the population ages and the impact of chronic diseases becomes more evident, the importance of preventive health strategies, such as supplements for healthy aging, is further underscored. Two natural health products are of particular interest for their role in promoting healthy aging.
Lion’s mane mushroom
Hericium erinaceus, or lion’s mane mushroom, has been shown to possess neuroprotective effects. Lion’s mane contains components called hericenones and erinacines that have been shown to stimulate synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF) and prevent cognitive impairment due to amyloid beta protein, which is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
Constituents from lion’s mane may also promote myelination. In neurons from the cerebellum, lion’s mane extract demonstrated a regulatory effect on the process of myelin synthesis in vitro. Lesser ingredients in lion’s mane include vitamin B12. As such, lion’s mane is indicated for various types of neurodegenerative conditions such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
In human studies, lion’s mane has been shown to improve mood as well as mild cognitive impairment. In one study, 30 patients with MCI received 3 g of lion’s mane or placebo for 16 weeks. After eight, 12, and 16 weeks, the patients treated with lion’s mane showed significantly improved cognitive function scores compared with the placebo group.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Secondly, fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are important nutrients in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative conditions. In addition to well-known effects on cholesterol and blood pressure, two large, powerful human trials show important benefits to risk of sudden fatal heart attack as well as nonfatal heart disease.
Furthermore, studies show that fish oil, in a ratio of between 1.5:1 and 2:1 of EPA to DHA, improves the global symptom picture for MCI, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Its benefit to cognitive function appears to be most pronounced in those in mild stages of the disease.
For instance, in patients with MCI, supplementation with EPA was associated with significant improvements in ratings of depression, and DHA improved verbal fluency.
In another study, fish oil resulted in significant slowing of the disease process among those who were categorized as having very mild cognitive impairment. In these patients, “a significant reduction in MMSE [mini] decline rate was observed in the omega-3 fatty acid-treated group compared with the placebo group.” When the placebo group was treated with fish oil in the second part of the study, they experienced a similar benefit.