Nutritionist and nootropic expert James Dixon looks to answer the question – Do brain cells regenerate? Find out the full answer to this below…
Over the past 20 years, there has been a significant shift in our understanding of the human brain. Scientists and medical professionals previously thought that we could no longer create new brain cells after reaching adulthood, which was a concerning thought given that many factors, including aging, can damage brain cells.
However, modern research has shown us a great deal more about our brains, and we have found that neurogenesis, new brain cells’ natural formation, occurs throughout our entire lives.
This isn’t just interesting. It is also immensely practical information. Researchers have found ways in which we might promote new brain cell growth, leading to improved cognitive health and function.
Our brains can produce thousands of new neurons daily, and this ability persists into our golden years. Neurogenesis occurs in various areas of our brains, including the hippocampus, striatum, amygdala, olfactory bulb, hypothalamus, and perhaps the cerebral cortex.
Any unused neural connections or the brain cells themselves can degrade and die. Several neurotransmitters, including GABA, dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate, play key roles in post-adolescent neurogenesis, but brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF) are the most critical chemicals for promoting the formation of new brain cells.
Neurogenesis is especially crucial in situations where stress levels are high, and cognitive impairment is increasing. Age-related cognitive decline can be mitigated by this process of increasing brain cell production.
Dysfunctional neurogenesis has been linked to various neurological and psychiatric disorders, including traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, epilepsy, stroke, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and substance use disorders. Some medications can impair the creation of new neurons. Neurogenesis active promotion may counterbalance these effects, however.
Increasing brain cell production
It can be difficult to obtain all the necessary nutrients for optimal brain health and cognitive performance through diet alone due to various factors such as poor diet, poor sleep quality or even insomnia, stress, pollution, and common pharmaceuticals.
Nutritional supplements can provide the base material for creating fresh brain cells, can increase resilience to stress, and can supply the brain with everything it needs to maintain cognitive energy. Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have been linked to increased neurogenesis, while eating harder-to-chew foods can also increase brain cell formation.
Certain nutrients such as omega-3 fats, flavonoids, curcumin, resveratrol, olive oil, apigenin, L-theanine, choline, lion’s mane, and gotu kola have neurogenerative properties and can be obtained through food or supplements. Nutritional deficiencies in vitamin A, B vitamins, and zinc can impair new brain cell growth, but taking a high-quality multivitamin can help boost brain cell production.
There are a range of quality nutritional supplements for brain health and performance including high quality nootropics that are made from natural ingredients.
Eating a reduced calories intake can promote neurogenesis by reducing inflammation whilst also increasing BDNF output. Eating more seldom can achieve similar results.
Intermittent fasting, which involves setting fast times of up to 20 hours between meals, can also increase neurogenesis. Eating foods that are harder to chew can also promote the formation of new brain cells. However, a diet high in saturated fat can greatly impair neurogenesis.
Foods for cell regeneration
Certain nutrients such as Omega-3 fats, flavonoids, curcumin, resveratrol, olive oil, apigenin, and L-theanine possess neurogenerative properties and can promote the growth of fresh brain cells. You can get these nutrients straight from food or through supplements, though food sources will generally be better.
You will typically find Omega-3 fats in oily fish, as well as in various fish oil supplements. Flavonoids are found in cocoa, blueberries, and green tea. Curcumin is found in turmeric. Resveratrol is found in pistachios, peanuts, grapes, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, chocolate, and peanut butter. Olive oil may additionally inspire new brain cell generation.
Apigenin, a phenolic compound, is known for its ability to inspire neurogenesis. You can find it chamomile tea, celery, and parsley. L-theanine is a compound found in true teas (Camellia sinensis) and is associated with inducing a very relaxed form of heightened focus. It bolsters BDNF and NGF production, which will in turn elicit new neuron growth, or neurogenesis.
Choline is a naturally occurring compound. You will find it in every single cell in the body. It is a precursor of citicoline, which in turn maintains existing brain cells whilst also promoting neurogenesis. It is most highly concentrated in fairly unappetizing animal derived ingredients like brain or liver, though you can also take it as a supplement (I would recommend getting it as a supplement).
Then there is Lion’s mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus), a type of mushroom that tastes a little fishy (literally) but brings a great many health benefits to the table. It contains roughly 70 bioactive compounds, including two unique sets of compounds called hericenones and erinacines, which encourage nerve growth factor formation.
Since lion’s mane mushrooms are hard to come across as food ingredients, many people take a lion’s mane supplement to obtain its benefits. Then there is gotu kola (Centella asiatica). It is an herbal ingredient that is used in traditional remedies and cooking in Asian countries.
It activates BDFN and NGF release, as well as promoting the growth of neurons through other compounds contained in its makeup. Gotu kola is only really often available as a supplement throughout the West.
Taking a mental workout
Researchers have found higher rates of neurogenesis in London cab drivers’ brains. They typically have to memorize London streets and landmarks, thus giving their brains a workout. MRIs have shown that your usual London cabbie’s hippocampus will be significantly larger than average.
Your hippocampus stores and organizes memories and is vital for spatial navigation. Challenging the brain with fresh, complicated activities will stimulate neurogenesis and ensure that they are well maintained.
Taking a physical workout
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise like jogging, cycling, vigorous walking or hiking, or swimming, can help you to grow new brain cells whilst simultaneously improving mental wellbeing.
Try a routine of sprinting for half a minute or so followed by exercising at a moderate intensity for five minutes.
Repeat this five times without a break to optimize cognitive benefits. It is also recommended to exercise outdoors if possible, as there is a strong causal connection between the production of BDNF (a protein that promotes the growth of new brain cells) and sunlight.
Get your rest
Getting enough high-quality sleep will be crucial for maintaining good brain health and mental wellness. During sleep, the brain performs important functions such as removing toxins, repairing itself, organizing and consolidating memories, and, of cause, creating new brain cells.
Ongoing lack of sleep can inhibit new brain cell formation and maintenance, though occasional sleepless nights are unlikely to have a significant impact on brain cell health or regeneration.
If you do have a bad night’s sleep, exercising the next day can help counteract any negative effects on your levels of BDNF.
Our understanding of the human brain has significantly shifted over the past couple of decades. Previously, it was believed that new brain cells were not created after reaching adulthood. However, we now know that neurogenesis, the formation of new brain cells, occurs throughout our entire lives. It can be bolstered or impaired by certain lifestyle factors.
Neurogenesis occurs in various regions of the brain, including the hippocampus, striatum, amygdala, hypothalamus, olfactory bulb, and possibly the cerebral cortex. Unused brain cells or neural connections can wither and die, so it’s important to use them. Certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and glutamate, are involved in adult neurogenesis, but brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF) are the most critical chemicals for promoting the formation of new brain cells.
Nutritional supplements can provide the building blocks for creating new brain cells and brain chemicals, whilst offering increased resilience to stress and supplying the brain with the fuel it needs for mental energy.
Calorie restriction and intermittent fasting have been linked to increased neurogenesis, while eating harder-to-chew foods can also increase brain cell formation. Certain nutrients such as omega-3 fats, flavonoids, curcumin, resveratrol, olive oil, apigenin, L-theanine, choline, lion’s mane, and gotu kola have neurogenerative properties and can be obtained through food or supplements.
Challenging the brain with new and complex activities stimulates the formation of new brain cells and ensures that new ones stick around. Sustained, moderate-intensity, aerobic exercise is the best for growing new brain cells and improving mental health. Getting enough high-quality sleep is crucial for maintaining good brain health and mental wellness.
Put all of these together and you have a recipe for brain health, right into your golden years.
James Dixon is one of the key players in the SOMA Analytics’ team. He is a personal trainer and is educated to Masters level in Philosophy. He is a published author and is a keen advocate of high quality nootropic supplements.
James enjoys helping others to reach their peak both physically and mentally and believes that expressing his knowledge through his writing is an effective way to positively impact the wellbeing of others on a larger scale.