Healthy Brain

Mental Clarity and Brain Function

By Robert Rister, Contributing Writer, with Klee Irwin,
Nutritional Expert, and the Health Breakthroughs Staff

For nutritional consultation, Robert Rister, renowned author of herbal medicine literature, conveyed this story to Klee Irwin, Nutraceutical Formulator of products like Dual Action Cleanse and Neuracta 7.

In his early 60s, Howard began to experience memory problems. At first, it was hard to distinguish Howard's memory loss from distraction. Klee lrwin listened intently as Robert Rister went on. Howard would put down tools and forget where he had placed them or come home from the market and notice he had forgotten the bread. A retired engineer, Howard would joke with his friends and children that his read-only memory (ROM) was fine and-like an old computer-he just needed more random-access memory (RAM).

Over a period of months, however, Howard's problems began to cause serious concerns. He would wake up, get dressed in his Sunday best and drive to his church, only to find an empty parking lot because it was actually Saturday. He began to forget holidays, meetings and birthdays. When Howard's children heard from the police that their father drove a mile down the wrong side of the freeway, they knew something had to be done.

Both Klee Irwin and Robert Rister knew that, while Howard's problems seem to be an extreme example, they're not that far off from what many adults in their 50s and 60s may face. Any time a "minor" detail is forgotten or confused, it can lead to frustration, worry and dread-am I going to end up like Howard? Klee Irwin and Robert Rister agree that, fortunately, there are things you can do right now to fortify your brain function, including various physical and mental exercises, eating a healthy diet and supplementing with specific nutrient compounds.

Klee Irwin and Robert Rister Tell Why Brains Age

At its peak performance state, usually around the age of 30, the human brain has established as many of 10,000 connections for each one of its approximately 100 billion nerve cells, yielding as many as 1,000 trillion cell-to-cell connections. That is a quadrillion nerve pathways.

Environmental toxins and stress can speed up brain aging.With aging, however-and due to the effects of environmental toxins, poor diet, smoking and alcohol use-many of these connections can be lost. As an extreme example, by the end of life an Alzheimer's patient may have virtually nothing remaining of the brain region called the hippocampus, where memories are formed.

"For this reason, scientists are feverishly searching for compounds that allow the brain to rest and repair itself. Several pharmaceutical companies are making progress, too," explains Klee Irwin.


Give Your Brain a Break

"For those who are concerned, some simple lifestyle changes can help. One is astonishingly simple: Whenever possible, avoid bedtime snacks," suggests Klee Irwin. A few years ago, scientists noticed that age-related memory loss is about half as frequent in Asia. They also noticed that people in Asia tend to consume about half as many calories per day as Americans do. For this reason, a "brain break" may be necessary. Try to stop eating at least a few hours before bedtime. But, if you can't help but succumb to late-night hunger, choose healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Enhance Your Gray Matter

Klee Irwin and Robert Rister mutually agree that another way to promote brain health is to take antioxidants. For example, the antioxidant Betaine (also known as trimethylglycine), may help rescue brain tissues from the effects of B-Vitamin deprivation (Schwahn et al, 2004). By enhancing stomach acid, this nutrient enables the stomach to digest and release the forms of B-Vitamins that are critical to brain health. Naturopathic physicians thus recommend Betaine for a variety of conditions.

Supplements can help slow the aging process of the brain.Over 140 studies document the abilities of Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) in supporting brain cells against many of the harmful proteins that can cause tangles in brain cells acknowledges Klee Irwin. ALC seems to have a particular affinity for the cells in the brain's memory center (Cutler et al, 2004).

Finally, emerging experimental evidence suggests that the herb Ginkgo Biloba helps preserve the memory capacity of the brain during times of stress (Walesiuk et al, 2005). It is believed to enhance blood flow in the body, which can especially help the brain. In 2012, scientists will announce the results of a massive clinical trial of Ginkgo for prevention of dementia (Debosky et al, 2006). Klee Irwin looks forward to the release of the findings to advance knowledge in the field.

In addition to supplementing your diet with key brain nutrients, it makes sense to provide your body with additional exercise. Studies show that those who are physically and mentally active are far more likely to avoid some of the most frightening brain diseases. Again, Klee Irwin and Robert Rister concur about the positive impact of physical and mental activity on the brain.


Howard's Happy Ending

"So what happened to Howard?" asked a concerned Klee Irwin.

"He had the good fortune of being treated by a holistically-oriented physician," responded Robert Rister. It turned out that Howard had a simple vitamin deficiency caused by an excessive dosage of a common diuretic that he was taking for his blood pressure. This drug depletes the body's important essential B-Vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Howard's doctors felt that he still needed the medication, so they put him on a simple and inexpensive nutritional supplementation program. Three months later, Howard's symptoms disappeared.

Twenty years since his brush with memory difficulties, Howard continues to live independently in his own home, and does all his own electrical repairs, carpentry and plumbing. His small investment in nutritional health has paid decades of dividends in active, productive and happy days.

Klee Irwin gave his analysis: "This is a happy ending!"



  • Cutler, R.G. et al. (2004). Involvement of oxidative stress-induced abnormalities in ceramide and cholesterol metabolism in brain aging and Alzheimer's disease.