There is a substance produced by your own body that is critical for your mind. Created in greater quantities especially following exercise, this “smart protein”, is essential for cognitive health.
Known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, it helps create new neurons (cells in the brain and nervous system) and maintains existing cells, too. Aside from that, BDNF is an essential element for brain plasticity (how the brain adapts and learns) learning, and other major functions. BDNF is generally deficient in those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, and issues with the gene for BDNF can be a component of depression, anxiety, and memory deficits as well.
An analysis of controlled, randomized clinical trials found that curcumin, the primary compound from turmeric, (Curcuma longa) can consistently, and significantly increase levels of BDNF, even after short periods of use – sometimes as little as 8 weeks. So, while it isn’t unusual for BDNF levels to drop with age, it does not have to be inevitable, either – you really can change that direction and help keep your brain healthy and your neural connections strong.
The key to curcumin success is to look for a clinically studied curcumin that includes a full complement of related curcuminoids and that is blended with turmeric essential oil for at least seven times better absorption and blood retention than you’d find with standard extracts.
Sarraf P, Parohan M, Javanbakht MH, Ranji-Burachaloo S, Djalali M. Short-term curcumin supplementation enhances serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor in adult men and women: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Res. 2019;69:1‐8. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2019.05.001
The reduction of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) affects cognitive function, learning, and memory and also causes behavioral disorders. Several randomized controlled trials have examined the neuroprotective effects of curcumin and its ability to increase BDNF levels, with inconclusive results. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the impact of curcumin supplementation on serum BDNF levels. A systematic review of the literature was conducted using PubMed, Scopus, ISI Web of Science, Cochrane library, and Google scholar to identify eligible studies up to January 2019. The studies included were randomized control trials of curcumin supplementation that reported the serum BDNF level as a primary outcome. A dose-response meta-analysis of eligible studies was performed using the random-effects model to estimate pooled effect size. Four randomized control trials with 139 participants were included. Curcumin supplementation dose and duration ranged from 200 to 1820 mg/d and 8 to 12 weeks, respectively. Curcumin supplementation significantly increased serum BDNF levels (weighted mean difference: 1789.38 pg/mL, 95% confidence interval: 722.04-2856.71, P < .01) with significant heterogeneity among the studies (I2 = 83.5%, P < .001). Subgroup analysis showed that sex, mean age of participants, curcumin dosage, and trial duration were potential sources of heterogeneity. The significant positive impact of curcumin supplementation on BDNF levels indicates its potential use for neurological disorders that are associated with low BDNF levels.