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Soybean Nutrient May Help Improve Memory in Seniors

soybeans, memory loss, dementia, nutrition

Everyone forgets things from time to time. Some degree of memory problems is common with aging. There are also some temporary, reversible causes of memory loss including certain medications, depression/stress/anxiety, or vitamin deficiency. When memory loss begins to interfere with your ability to maintain a normal life, it is time to get help.

One nutrient being studied for its role in brain disorders is phosphatidylserine. This food component is found naturally in soy, beef, and seafood (primarily oysters). It is thought to help promote cell-to-cell communication in the brain as part of the cell membrane. In addition to memory conditions, phosphatidylserine is also being studied for neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

In an exploratory study, involving 30 elderly volunteers with memory complaints, supplementation with 300 mg of soybean-derived phosphatidylserine for 12 weeks was found to be associated with significant improvements in such cognitive parameters as memory recognition, memory recall, executive functions and mental flexibility. Total learning and immediate recall improved significantly as well.

Phosphatidylserine is available as well as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. In 2003, the FDA released a decision letter stating that studies had not yet proved that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia or cognitive dysfunction, however, supplements may offer a product using the following disclaimers:

"Consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly.
Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim."

The new evidence from the most recent study adds to the evidence that certain nutrients may help promote cognitive function in elderly adults, but as usual, we recommend an approach to reduce the risk of dementia with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, exercise, and management of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The Mayo Clinic offers the following 7 tips for preventing memory loss:

1: Stay mentally active
Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and perhaps keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Read a section of the newspaper that you normally skip. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Volunteer at a local school or community organization.

2: Socialize regularly
Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others — especially if you live alone. When you're invited to share a meal or attend an event, go!

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3: Get organized
You're more likely to forget things if your home is cluttered and your notes are in disarray. Jot down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner. You might even repeat each entry out loud as you jot it down to help cement it in your memory. Keep to-do lists current, and check off items you've completed. Set aside a certain place for your wallet, keys and other essentials.

4: Focus
Limit distractions, and don't try to do too many things at once. If you focus on the information that you're trying to remember, you'll be more likely to recall it later. It might also help to connect what you're trying to remember to a favorite song or another familiar concept.

5: Eat a healthy diet
A heart-healthy diet may be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry – and soybeans! What you drink counts, too. Not enough water or too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.

6: Include physical activity in your daily routine
Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This may help keep your memory sharp. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (think brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (such as jogging) — preferably spread throughout the week. If you don't have time for a full workout, squeeze in a few 10-minute walks throughout the day.

7: Manage chronic conditions
Follow your doctor's treatment recommendations for any chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory is likely to be. In addition, review your medications with your doctor regularly. Various medications can impact memory.
When to seek help for memory loss

If you're worried about memory loss — especially if memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities — consult your doctor. He or she will likely do a physical exam, as well as check your memory and problem-solving skills. Sometimes other tests are needed as well. Treatment will depend on what's contributing to the memory loss.

Richter Y, Herzog Y, et al, "The effect of soybean-derived phosphatidylserine on cognitive performance in elderly with subjective memory complaints: a pilot study" Clin Interv Aging, 2013; 8: 557-63. (Address: Enzymotec Ltd, K'far Baruch, Israel).

Bochner R, Ziv Y, Zeevi D, et al. Phosphatidylserine increases IKBKAP levels in a humanized knock-in IKBKAP mouse model. Human Molecular Genetics, 2013.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Nutritional Supplement Delays Advancement Of Parkinson's And Familial Dysautonomia."

US Food and Drug Administration. Phosphatidylserine and Cognitive Dysfunction and Dementia. Accessed May 21, 2013.

Mayo Clinic: Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory