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Give Yourself The Edge And Sharpen The Mind

Exam Time
Give yourself the edge and sharpen the mind
Studying for exams is an exhausting time for everyone involved, sometimes it feels like our brains have ran a marathon during an all night cramming session and other times it can feel like a 100 metre cramming sprint just before the exam doors open.
So why not treat you brain like the logical athlete it is and give it the nutrition it needs.

• Fish Oils (DHA)
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a number of bodily functions, including muscle activity; blood clotting, digestion, fertility, and cell division and growth. One of these fatty acids DHA is particularly important for brain development and function. Decreases in DHA in the brain are associated with cognitive decline during ageing and with onset of sporadic Alzheimer disease. In studies it has been shown that omega 3 supplementation may have a favourable effect on memory (1) Look for supplements that will supply you with 500mg + of DHA per day while studying.

• L-theanine
L-theanine is an amino acid found most commonly in green tea leaves it has been used to promote relaxation and concentration. L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness. (2) Best taken before study to calm the nerves and improve concentration on the task at hand.

• Rhodiola Rosea
Is one of the most popular adaptogenic herbs used in the world. It works by picking up on anything that is out of whack within the body and helping to bring it back to balance. When we are stressed our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol, which helps us deal with the stress. Overtime our adrenal glands can burn out, leading to a decline in the release of cortisol, in turn making us less able to deal with stress. Rhodiola nourishes the adrenal glands therefore helping with cortisol release and stress management. It is also a stimulant and can help with mental clarity and motivation while boosting energy levels, which makes studying for that extra hour a little more bearable.

• Lions mane mushroom
Is a unique medicinal mushroom used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is prised for its ability to improve cognitive function and treat neurological disorders. Lion’s mane works by stimulating the formation of nerve growth factor (NGF) in the brain. For best results a dosage of 2 grams of powder should be consumed daily. (4)

• Choline
Choline is an essential nutrient related to the B-vitamins that must be consumed in the diet. It is responsible for a number of functions in the body such as: liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Its main effect on learning is to due to the fact it is the precursor to acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter most strongly associated with memory, learning, and overall cognitive function. (3)

• Gotu kola
Also known as the “student” herb it is used mainly in Ayurvedic medicine to treat to treat mental fatigue, anxiety, depression, memory loss, insomnia, fever, syphilis, hepatitis, epilepsy, diarrhoea and asthma. But recent research has highlighted its cognitive boosting effects. Gotu kola activates the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) a protein that acts like fertilizer for your brain encouraging new brain cells and nerve growth factor (NGF). It has been noted that it may take a few weeks to produce significant effects. (5)

Do not introduce new supplements on the day of your exam, incorporate them slowly into your study sessions to see how you react to them.

1. Richter, Y., Herzog, Y., Cohen, T., & Steinhart, Y. (2010). The effect of phosphatidylserine-containing omega-3 fatty acids on memory abilities in subjects with subjective memory complaints: a pilot study. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 5, 313.
2. Anna C, Anling R and Gail O. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state Asia Pac J Clin Nutr (S1):167-168
3. Zeisel, S. H., & da Costa, K.-A. (2009). Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health. Nutrition Reviews, 67(11), 615–623.
5. Wattanathorn J., Mator L., Muchimapura S., et al. Positive modulation of cognition and mood in the healthy elderly volunteer following the administration of Centella asiatica . Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2008;116(2):325–332.

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