The five best supplements for preventing memory loss in middle age and reducing your risk of dementia

Brain and supplements

Supplements have been shown to boost cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 06/06/2024

- 16:14

Updated: 09/06/2024

- 12:12

From slowing age-related memory loss to boosting processing power, here are the best supplements for keeping your brain sharp into old age

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Memory loss is anxiety-inducing at the best of times but you have the added worry of dementia as you get older. In most cases, misplacing your keys is simply a sign of ageing — not irreversible brain decline.

Yet, why take chances? Simple hacks have been shown to keep your brain sharp into middle age and beyond. No single approach can prevent dementia, of course, but research does make a strong case for incorporating supplements into your diet.

Here are five that have been shown to boost cognitive performance:


Multivitamins may improve memory performance to the extent that it reverses your brain age by three years, research suggests.

Scientists reached this conclusion after running thinking and memory tests on 3,562 participants.

A prior study found that a daily multivitamin improved thinking and memory — at least when evaluated with cognitive testing completed by phone.

And a follow-up study published this year supported these findings, confirming consistent and statistically significant benefits of a daily multivitamin versus placebo for both memory and global cognition.

The studies were relatively small and may not be noticeable at the individual level. However, they suggest that this small effect could be important at the level of an entire population.


L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in some mushrooms, green and black teas. It is also available in supplement form.

The compound has been shown to enhance working memory and attention after a single dose.

The study of 69 middle-aged Japanese men and women found a single dose of L-theanine reduced the reaction time to attention tasks, and it increased the number of correct answers and decreased the number of omission errors in working memory tasks.

Since the researchers focused on a specific cohort, it is unclear how generalisable the findings are, but other studies have pointed to the cognitive benefits of L-theanine.

A small study in Neuropharmacology, participants who took 100 milligrams of L-theanine before a monitored two-hour task period made fewer errors during that time than those who received a placebo.

In 2016, researchers reviewed the existing research on the benefits of L-theanine and concluded that this compound could benefit a person’s mental and physical health.


Phosphatidylcholine, or PC, is a type of phospholipid — a major building block of cell membranes.

PC has been shown to improve memory and reduce the risk of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

An analysis of nearly 2,500 middle-aged adults, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found evidence that dietary intakes of choline - an essential nutrient - and PC were associated with better performance in cognitive tests assessing verbal fluency and memory.

Furthermore, the risk of dementia was 28 percent lower in men with the highest intake of dietary PC, when compared to men with the lowest intake.

A previous 1995 study on mice with dementia suggested PC supplementation can increase acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is compound that plays an important role in memory function.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba extract has been found to improve cognitive function in patients who recently had an acute ischaemic stroke, which is a risk factor for dementia.

Also known as fossil tree, maidenhair tree and Japanese silver apricot, Ginkgo biloba has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine.

Previous research has looked at Ginkgo biloba's potential in treating dementia but this is the first study examine the potential of the herbal extract to improve cognitive function in acute ischemic stroke patients.

A neuroscientist told GB News that Ginkgo biloba helps to boost memory and reasoning powers, and to lessen or even halt the cognitive decline that can occur after an ischaemic stroke due to a blood clot in the brain.

The latest study builds on previous research published in Stroke and Vascular Neurology, which found that combined with aspirin, Ginkgo biloba extract helped improve cognitive and neurological issues individuals were experiencing following acute ischaemic strokes.

Another study found that an extract of Ginkgo biloba, known as EGb 761, was clinically effective in treating Alzheimer’s dementia.

According to research published in JAMA, EGb 761 is safe to use and possibly effective in stabilising and possibly improving cognitive and the social functioning patients with dementia for between six and 12 months.


Flavanols — a class of flavonoids — have been shown to boost memory in a study of more than 3,000 adults.

It comes after a Harvard-led study in 2021 found that people with the highest daily flavonoid intakes were 19 percent less likely to report trouble with memory and thinking, compared with people who had the lowest daily flavonoid intakes.

What explains this effect?

According to nutritionist Rob Hobson, flavonoids are thought to be beneficial because they help to boost blood flow to the brain.

"This, in turn, helps to deliver more oxygen and nutrients, such as glucose – the main energy source for neurons," he told GB News.

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