Vinpocetine: Food for Thought
One of the unfortunate consequences of aging is sluggish blood flow to your brain. This means that even though you’re eating the right foods, your brain may not be receiving all the nutrients it desperately needs to function at its best.
There’s a natural solution to this problem in a specific nutrient called vinpocetine. This natural compound comes from the periwinkle plant and is used all over the world to treat vascular dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Vinpocetine works by dilating (opening up) the blood vessels to enhance blood flow to specific regions of the brain and improve the utilization of glucose and oxygen. It increases energy metabolism in the brain and even helps to reduce blood clotting, making it an effective deterrent to stroke.
In people with Alzheimer’s disease, age-related memory decline and stroke, vinpocetine has been shown to enhance overall brain function and cognitive ability. It appears to work by increasing healthy blood flow to the entire damaged region of the brain. In Europe where vinpocetine is sold under the brand name Cavinton, 75 to 80% of people with various cerebrovascular disorders have shown improvement on measures of cognitive function.(1)
In a study of elderly people with chronic cerebral dysfunction, 42 patients were givien 10 mg of vinpocetine three times a day for 30 days, then 5 mg three times a day for 60 days.
Placebo tablets were given to another 42 patients for the 90-day trial period. Patients on vinpocetine scored consistently better in all evaluations, including measurements on the Clinical Global Impression (CGI) scale, the Sandoz Clinical Assessment Geriatric (SCAG) scale, and the Mini-Mental Status Questionnaire (MMSQ). No serious side effects were noted.(2)
More recent studies indicate that vinpocetine also offers direct protection against neurological aging. It has been shown to maintain electrical conduction between brain cells and to provide protection from damage caused by excessive intracellular release of calcium.(2)
As a potent natural antioxidant, vinpocetine reduces oxidative stress and the free radicals that can damage delicate brain cells.
In order to derive the greatest benefits from vinpocetine’s ability to improve cerebral blood flow, it is important to ensure you are consuming a brain-healthy diet. Be sure to include generous daily servings of essential fatty acids, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and B-vitamin-boosting whole grains along with a daily dose of vinpocetine.
While you’re taking vinpocetine you’ll be pleased to know that its benefits go far beyond brain health. One study showed that it protects the retina from the hepatitis B virus. In animal studies, vinpocetine was shown to protect against gastric lesions caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Dharma S. Khalsa, M.D., is President and Medical Director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. The ARPF is dedicated to fighting Alzheimer’s disease and finding a cure through research and prevention. Dr. Khalsa wrote about Alzheimer’s for HealthCentral.