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Brain & Neurons

Stanford Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman’s Nutrient and Supplement List for Brain Health

The foods to eat, or supplements to take for improving brain function, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman.

Dr. Andrew Huberman (Image: Medium)
By Griffin Dean

Brain Health Nutrients and Supplements: 

  • EPA omega-3 fatty acids (1.5-3g/day)
  • Phosphatidylserine (300mg/day)
  • Choline (0.5g-2g/day)
  • Alpha GPC (300mg 2-4x/week)
  • Creatine (5g/day)
  • Anthocyanins (6-11mg/day)
  • L-glutamine (1-10g/day)

In a Huberman Lab episode, Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., discusses the top nutrients involved in brain function. These nutrients may maintain brain health over time, potentially counteracting the memory loss and cognitive deficits that occur with aging. 

EPA (1.5-3g/day)

Huberman declares that fat is the most important food element for brain function because it provides the building blocks for neurons. He says eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a particular form of omega-3 fatty acid, can improve brain health. While EPA is contained in fish oil supplements, it is also in foods. Foods with high levels of EPA include: 

  • Fish (e.g. mackerel, salmon, anchovies, and herring)
  • Oysters 
  • Caviar 
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans 

Phosphatidylserine (300mg/day)

Huberman explains that phosphatidylserine is a lipid-like molecule that can be supplemented relatively inexpensively. Several studies have shown that supplementing with 300 mg/day of phosphatidylserine modestly improves cognition or reduces cognitive decline. Still, like EPA, it can be found in fish and other foods. Thus, foods with high levels of phosphatidylserine are: 

  • Meat
  • Fish 
  • Cabbage
  • Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)

Choline (0.5-2g/day)

Choline is the substrate for the neuromodulator acetylcholine (ACh), which enhances brain activity for focus and alertness. Huberman explains that sufficient choline levels are necessary for ACh production. He says that while some people supplement with choline, food seems to be the best source. Eggs, particularly the yolks, have the highest levels of choline. Still, animal-based foods, and some plant-based foods, also contain choline. The entire list noted by Huberman is as follows: 

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Some planted-based foods

Huberman ranks EPA, phosphatidylserine, and choline as the top three nutrients for enhancing neuron function. Since he does not like fish, Huberman himself takes liquid fish oil supplements. And while he does not take a phosphatidylserine supplement, for choline supplementation he takes Alpha GPC. 

Alpha GPC (300mg 2-3x/week)

Huberman notes that he consumes choline-containing foods on a regular basis but sometimes supplements with Alpha GPC. He says, for him, taking Alpha GPC in the morning has a stimulating effect, but not nearly as stimulating as caffeine. Dosages between 600 and 1, 200 mg of Alpha GPC have been shown to offset cognitive decline, but Huberman takes 300 mg “every now and again” since he is not aware of having cognitive decline. 

Creatine (5g/day)

Creatine is a popular supplement used by weightlifters to enhance strength but it is also fuel for the brain. Huberman says there is ample evidence for creatine supplementation (about 5 mg/day) to enhance cognitive function in certain contexts. With that said the brain-boosting benefits of creatine may be more pronounced in those who do not regularly consume creatine-containing foods like meat. Huberman himself supplements with creatine rather than seeking it out in food. 

Anthocyanins (6-11mg/day)

Anthocyanins are molecules found in fruits and vegetables, particularly berries. Huberman mentions studies of older individuals showing that 400 to 600 mg of anthocyanins from extract improves cognition. When looking at the entire batch of studies, Huberman says that taking 6-11 mg of blueberry extract could benefit cognition. From food, 60 to 120 g of fresh blueberries will suffice. 

L-glutamine (1-10g/day)

There is evidence, although scant, Huberman says, that glutamine improves immune function. Additionally, glutamine triggers the feeling of satiation, explains Huberman, which could offset sugar cravings. He goes on to discuss sleep apnea, which is associated with cognitive dysfunction even in young people. He then points out that glutamine supplementation could counteract apnea-induced cognitive dysfunction. Overall, he says that glutamine may possibly have cognitive-enhancing effects. Foods high in glutamine include: 

  • Dairy products (e.g. cottage cheese)
  • Beef
  • Chicken 
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables (e.g. beans, cabbage, spinach, parsley)

Put Sleep and Exercise First 

Huberman emphasizes that getting sufficient sleep is the foundation of all mental and physical health. Therefore, one should practice good sleep hygiene, including getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep and waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. He also emphasizes getting 150 to 180 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week. Not only is cardiovascular exercise crucial for heart health, it is also crucial for brain health. Good sleep and consistent exercise will set the basis for cognitive performance, for which nutrient intake may be optimized. 

Source

Huberman, Andrew. “Nutrients For Brain Health & Performance | Huberman Lab Podcast #42.” YouTube.com, uploaded 18 October 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7W4OQfJWdw&t=1091s.

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