Studies revealing that the brain is even more sensitive to nutrition than was once thought show how a healthy diet and targeted supplementation can help us stay sharp, calm and energized as we age, writes Jim Manson 

In 2019, researchers at Harvard University began work on a study to examine how taking a daily multivitamin might affect memory in older people. With cognitive ageing a major concern for a growing number of older adults, the Harvard team wanted to test whether a simple, low-cost intervention that many people already make for their general health could help to slow cognitive decline – a major global issue with huge public health cost ramifications. 

The researchers had already established that very few large-scale, randomized trials had been done in this specialist area. They set the bar high for their own study, recruiting over 3,500 older adults onto their randomized, placebo-controlled trial and studying their progress over three years. 

By the end, the group who had taken the multivitamin demonstrated an improvement in their memory equivalent to a full three years of age-related memory decline. The team described the finding as ‘remarkable’. But the biggest takeaway, said lead author Lok-Kin Yeung, was the discovery ‘that the ageing brain may be even more sensitive to nutrition than we realized’. 

Diet, not genes 
The Harvard study lands at a time when growing numbers of specialists in the field of brain health are concluding that diet, not genes, is the major driver of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Earlier this year, a landmark study published in the British Medical Journal showed that even for carriers of the APOE gene — the strongest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia — a healthy lifestyle was found to slow memory loss, with a healthy diet having the strongest effect on slowing memory decline, followed by cognitive activity and then physical exercise. The study followed 30,000 people over a decade and found that those with a healthy diet were about seven times less likely to have age-related cognitive decline or dementia than those with an ‘average’ diet.

Golden era of cognitive research
Public awareness of dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive function decline more generally, is helping to drive a huge research effort to find treatments – but also to explore ways to boost brain power in the present and prevent or delay decline in later life. One of the most promising areas of research is how the gut-brain connection can be positively influenced with the help of probiotics. Several studies have indicated that gut microbiota can help regulate brain function directly through the gut-brain axis, helping to manage and reduce episodes of depression and anxiety. 

For example, a 2023 randomized controlled trial (RCT) carried out by the Brighton and Sussex Medical School showed that participants who took a probiotic supplement experienced a ‘significant reduction in scores for depressive symptoms’ compared to a placebo control. Professor James Stone, senior investigator, believes the findings are especially important as 60% of people suffering major depressive disorder do not respond to conventional antidepressants.

Meanwhile, a review by Chinese researchers of 14 studies that used probiotics to regulate intestinal microbiota showed that over a third reported a reduction of anxiety symptoms.

The protective role of the polyphenolic compounds flavanols in reducing the risk of age-related memory loss was further confirmed this year by research from Columbia University. A three-year study of 3,562 people aged around 70 found those with high regular flavanol consumption had better hippocampal memory function (which includes short-term memory-making) than those who didn’t. The team concluded that an optimum daily intake of flavanols – found in tea, apples and berries – would be around 500mg, which they said was ‘readily achievable’ with dietary adjustment.  

Scientists from Reading University have been harnessing the power of polyphenols in a study that explored the effect of wild blueberry powder supplements. In a placebo-controlled study, the team gave one group a drink containing 26g of freeze-dried wild blueberries over a 12-week period. The group who had the wild blueberry powder showed signs of better memory and greater mental flexibility when completing cognitive tasks.

Sometimes, combinations of nutrients exert an amplifying effect, increasing benefits. This seems to be the case with a combination of B vitamins and omega-3, which has shown itself to be a potent force against brain shrinking. University of Oxford researchers found that by giving older people with the first signs of cognitive impairment supplemental B vitamins at higher levels than can be achieved through diet, 73% less brain shrinkage was achieved in those with sufficient omega-3 fats, compared to a placebo. “The effect is greater than that of drug treatment to date, with no adverse effects,” comments lead study author Professor David Smith.

Nootropics still setting the pace 
Natural nootropics is a health foods category that has taken off spectacularly in recent years, as Vicky Perks, owner of Beanfreaks in Cardiff, explains: “The cognitive nutrition section has really come on over the last four years. Initially it was driven by American nootropics gurus, with twenty-somethings looking for a ‘natural high’ or a way to burn the candle from every end. It’s more fully evolved now to customers from all age groups seeking better clarity or focus, or brain circulatory support.” 

Cheryl Westbury, senior nutritionist at Earthfare in Glastonbury, agrees that nootropics are still very much an in-demand category. “They’re among our bestselling supplements, lion’s mane being an especially strong performer.” 

The potential for natural nootropics – which include l-theanine, ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, lion’s mane mushroom, ginkgo biloba and choline – to boost brain function is becoming increasingly well understood. One study by researchers in Malaysia showed how nootropics act as a vasodilator against the small arteries and veins in the brain, helping increase blood circulation, energy and oxygen flow.

Brands themselves are increasingly undertaking their own research. MindLab recently commissioned an RCT on its MindLab Pro supplement. The study found that participants who took the supplement achieved ‘significant improvements’ across all memory tests. 

Recent additions to the ever growing nootropics line-up include Nature’s Way’s Brain Fuel formulation, which harnesses its Cognigrape grape extract to support short-term memory and concentration; and Flow Coffee from London Nootropics, a stylishly packaged adaptogenic coffee with lion’s mane and rhodiola blended to aid mental clarity and focus. 

Be uplifted 
Health food retailers have a growing armoury of brain health and cognitive function products to call on. Here, we highlight some of the latest contenders in the category and hear from retailers about the brain health products catching their attention.  

Focus fruit-powered vitamin chews from The Secret Nature of the Fruit blends choline, l-theanine, and vitamins B6 and B12 to support energy production and alertness, while passion fruit and strawberry (containing anthocyanins) support healthy brain function. 

Viridian Organic Peak Focus, meanwhile, combines extracts of lemon balm and sage to help maintain optimal mental wellbeing, and works within one to two hours of a single dose. 

Focus & Clarity from The Herbtender is an adaptogenic herbal blend pitched as an ‘uplifting go-to for study and exams, and pressured work deadlines’. 

Organic coconut specialist Tiana has taken a bold move into the category with the launch of its Memory Oil which, the company says, is packed full of ‘brain-boosting bioactive ingredients’ formulated to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain cells – a leading cause of memory deterioration. 

Brain Patch from LifeBio introduces an innovative transdermal alternative to capsules and powders, with each patch primed with a synergistic blend of brain-boosting actives. 

Westbury says that, generically, lion’s mane, NAC and ashwaganda KSM-66 are regularly requested at Earthfare. She also reports good initial interest in products from cognitive health specialist R.Y.M. Nutrition, including its Focus & Memory, De-Stress and Sleep lines. 

Perks adds: “Living Nutrition has a gorgeous fermented herbal combination called Wisdom, a really fabulous combination of holy basil, gotu kola, matcha, and lion’s mane. In terms of brands in this space, there are so many but I tend to fall back on my favourites: Viridian, Terranova, Biocare, and Natures Aid. They cover the nutritional needs for most of my customers. Companies such as Wiley’s Finest, Living Nutrition, Mushrooms 4 Life and Feel Supreme offer some more specific or specialized products. That’s the beauty of an independent health store – I’m in a position to buy something new in if it offers something that my customers are asking for and I feel warrants my interest.”


The brain health opportunity: a retailer’s perspective
Vicky Perks, Beanfreaks, Cardiff 

What are the most common brain health issues and concerns that customers seek advice on?
Adult ADHD diagnosis is huge at the moment so we have a lot of customers seeking more information on medicinal mushrooms, particularly lion’s mane.

What issues are driving current growth in the brain health category?
I really think COVID has been a marker point in the health of a lot of customers. A lot of our older customers experienced mental decline, while middle-aged customers found readjusting to work situations more challenging or found the frailty of life a wake-up call; and the younger customers needed more focus. Many years ago, the cognitive health section would either be ginkgo for granny or DHA for little Timmy; now it’s definitely across the board.

What type of customer is most likely to be looking for brain performance and cognitive enhancement-focused products?
The understanding and openness to discuss mental decline has really opened up the development of newer supplements. And we now have customers across the board for concerns spanning menopause, work performance, vascular and age-related issues. Your particular shop’s situation will probably influence the type of customer seeking you out. Certainly, in my area menopausal ladies looking for more sharpness are probably the biggest group. Athletic performance-seeking and extra edge is another big group. We don’t have the same ‘work hard, play-hard’ culture as you’d expect in London and Manchester, but I certainly understand this is where the rise in this section has its roots.

What specific products or nutrients/botanicals are customers asking about currently?
Obviously lion’s mane is the category frontrunner, but herbs such as tulsi (holy basil) and saffron are also exciting cognitive remedies and have really taken over from ginkgo as the go-to brain herbs. There is a surge in popularity for zinc and magnesium, and a better understanding of its different forms. B vitamins and essential fats are often neglected in TikTok videos, so I take a pride in talking about co-factors to help absorption or for the fundamental ‘running’ of the brain!


How to help customers with brain fog
Studies suggest around 39% of the population experiences brain fog to some degree. And following the pandemic it seems to be on the rise, being a symptom reported by 69% of long-COVID sufferers. 

Amanda Williams, nutritional therapist and CEO, Cytoplan, who developed a successful Brain Health Community Programme, says: “While brain fog is not a medical condition itself, it often stems from underlying causes such as stress, lack of sleep, poor nutritional status, hormonal imbalances, certain medications, and medical conditions.

“Good nutrition plays a crucial role in … reducing brain fog. Consuming a wholefood, nutrient-dense diet, rich in essential fatty acids can provide the necessary fuel for optimal cognitive function, helping people to regain mental clarity and focus.

“In addition to implementing lifestyle changes and seeking professional help when necessary, incorporating brain-boosting foods into your diet can significantly contribute to cognitive function. Foods such as antioxidant-rich blueberries, mineral-dense broccoli and quality sources of oily fish and walnuts are excellent to include. It is also essential to reduce sugar intake. Sugary and high carbohydrate diets can also lead to many symptoms such as poor memory and concentration, mood swings, depression and frequent headaches.”


Hot Stocks

Delivering the goods
Presented as an elixir, De-liver-ance by Equilibrium Labs aids mental clarity through a careful ratio of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and herbal extracts. Ginseng and ‘super molecule’ seanol assist the body’s natural detoxification which in turn improves liver health and enhances mental clarity. The product is taken as a shot, followed by a glass of water. 

Making memories 
Aiming to help cognition-conscious consumers achieve better mental function, Nutrigums Mind and Focus Ashwagandha Gummies contain a mix of B vitamins, D3 and l-theanine which work alongside the ancient Ayurvedic herbal extract to reduce mental stresses, boost mood and improve focus and memory.  

New from Norway
Sustainably sourced wild Atlantic cod make up this highly absorbable Norwegian Cod Liver Oil by Osavi Marine. Containing EPA and DHA – which together help maintain blood flow to the brain and normal blood pressure and function of this vital organ – one teaspoon a day provides 1,000 mg of omega-3. Available in Unflavoured, Lemon, Orange and Lemon-Mint. 

Geeking out 
New from Nutrition Geeks is Lion’s Mane Focus+ which is designed to promote nerve growth factor and enhance memory and mental clarity. With a minimum of 4,000mg of lion’s mane extract per serving, the product is polysaccharide-rich and contains vitamin B1 to boost the brain’s agility and offer the user heightened concentration and alertness.     

Brain boosters
Designed specifically for cognitive processing and stress support, Wiley’s Finest new Wild Norwegian Cod Liver Oil+ offers ‘brain-boosters’ lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamins D3 and E alongside EPA and DHA to optimize brain function and, additionally, vision. The 125ml bottle contains 25 servings and comes in Orange Bliss flavour.


Puresport Adaptogenic Mushroom & Supplements Range

Tel: 07795 190479
E-mail:  [email protected]   [email protected]

Elevating Brain Health with Puresport’s Adaptogenic Mushroom Supplements
Puresport, a trailblazing brand in the health and wellness industry, has taken a ground-breaking approach to enhancing brain health through their mission-driven ethos, which revolves around empowering individuals to unlock their full potential by offering premium, science-backed solutions for a healthier life. This commitment is reflected in their range of adaptogenic mushroom supplements, carefully formulated to optimise brain function and support mental resilience.
Puresport’s product line draws from the wisdom of ancient herbal traditions and modern scientific research to offer a holistic approach to brain health. Adaptogens, renowned for their stress-combating properties, play a pivotal role in helping the body and mind adapt to various challenges. Puresport’s adaptogenic mushroom supplements harness the power of nature, providing a natural remedy for the pressures of modern life.
At the heart of Puresport’s adaptogenic range are carefully selected mushrooms renowned for their cognitive benefits. Lion’s Mane, revered for its potential to enhance memory and focus, takes a prominent place in their offerings. This remarkable fungus contains compounds that may stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF), supporting the regeneration of brain cells and promoting overall cognitive wellness.
Another gem in Puresport’s collection is the Cordyceps mushroom, recognized for its potential to increase oxygen utilization, bolstering energy levels and mental stamina, making it an ideal companion for those aiming to excel in various aspects of life.
The Reishi mushroom, known for its calming properties, helps to mitigate stress and promote a balanced mood. By reducing the impact of stress on the brain, Reishi supports better cognitive function and emotional well-being, crucial components of overall brain health.
Their triple-lab-tested range comes with Informed Sport certification and endorsements from a roster of world famous athletes, wellness professionals and key opinion leaders, making them the most trusted on the market and a must-have on the shelves of health & wellness retailers.


Bee energised Energy & Focus Supplement

Unbeelievable Health
Tel: 020 7993 2471
E-mail:  [email protected]

Multi-award winning Bee Energised energy and focus supplement is formulated by nutritionists & combines highest quality nutrients with proven benefits including organic: bee pollen, matcha & spirulina plus ginseng, rose hips & l-theanine rich green tea, rosemary extract & more. They contain no fillers, allergens or excipients and are Vegetarian Society Approved. Capsule contents may be opened into juice for those who don’t like swallowing pills. Bee Energised is helpful for fatigue, brain fog, sports & fitness training, jet lag, menopause, long covid, exams & more. Available via CLF, Bionature, Hunts, Dundeis and Wholefoods Ireland. 


Lions Mane Liquid for Brain Health

Feel Supreme
Tel: 03330 501553
E-mail:  [email protected]

Lion’s Mane liquid is a natural supplement that has gained popularity in recent years due to its potential benefits for brain health. Lion’s Mane is a type of mushroom that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It contains compounds which have been shown to support brain health and cognition.
Our Multi Award Winning Lion’s Mane liquid is believed to help promote the growth of nerve cells and protect against age-related cognitive decline. It may also have neuroprotective properties that can help improve memory and focus. Incorporating Lion’s Mane liquid into your daily routine may be a beneficial way to support brain health and enhance cognitive function.



HealthAid Ltd
Tel: 020 8426 3400
E-mail: [email protected]

BrainVit® – Supports a healthy brain function. The brain, the most vital organ in the body requires nutrients to support its function. The stress and pressure associated with our modern lifestyles may reduce the brain’s ability to function optimally, resulting in reduced concentration and alertness. With this in mind, HealthAid® have developed BrainVit®, incorporating specific ingredients such as Phosphatidyl serine, CoQ10, Ginkgo, Alpha lipoic acid and other essential nutrients, to support cognitive function and maintain good blood flow to and from the brain. BrainVit® is free from common allergens, suitable for vegetarians.
BrainVit® retails at £22.99 for 60 tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit   


Lamberts Ginkgo 6000mg

Lamberts Healthcare
Tel: 01892 554313
E-mail:  [email protected]

Gingko biloba is one of the oldest living tree species, and records show its use in traditional Chinese medicine for cognitive function and circulation. Ginkgo is revered throughout Asia, where it symbolises longevity and enlightenment. 

Lamberts has created a high strength standardised Ginkgo Biloba extract. Each tablet contains 120mg extract, equivalent to 6000mg of dried leaf, standardised to contain 24% ginkgo flavone glycosides. By offering a standardised extract, the stated levels of the active constituent ginkgo flavone glycoside can be guaranteed. The tablets are time release so that the ginkgo is released gradually over a period of approximately 2 hours.


Nurture your memory with Spark

Neubria Ltd
Tel: 0161 820 7609
E-mail:  [email protected]

Enter the realm of cognitive vitality with Spark For Memory – a natural memory supplement. Delve into the science of non-pathological brain aging as Spark Our Memory targets oxidative damage, mitochondrial vitality, and neuroinflammation – all crucial contributors to memory disorders. This unique blend, enriched with memory-supporting nutrients, minerals, and active micronutrients alongside precision plant extracts, is meticulously formulated to support memory, cognitive prowess, and information recall. Rediscover mental agility and empower your ability to learn and remember effortlessly.


Pukka – Tulsi Clarity 

Pukka Herbs
E-mail:  [email protected]

Tulsi also known as holy basil has calming effects and promotes positive energy, bringing you mental clarity and clearing the fog. Our stimulating blend helps clear away clouds in the mind with the refreshing and uplifting flavour. Sourced from India and blended by our in-house herbal experts and nutritionists, our Tulsi Clarity tea combines the latest scientific research with traditional herbal wisdom to naturally lift your mood and sharpen your senses. This combination of organic herbs is naturally caffeine-free and contains ethically and sustainably sourced, vegan-friendly ingredients. Enjoy each reviving cup as it clears your busy mind.



WFBM Healthcare Ltd
Tel: 01782 528611
E-mail:  [email protected]

SYNAPTAID is a doctor-formulated and scientifically-based supplement to support cognitive function.
It was been developed by Dr John Briffa for those experiencing issues such as poor memory, ‘cognitive impairment’ and ‘brain fog’.
It is also suitable for anyone wanting to enhance their overall brain function and reduce the risk of future problems.
Formulated with Lions Mane, cinnamon verum and key nutrients to support mental performance and cognitive function.



Wholesale Health Ltd
Tel: 01606 889905
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Health Naturally’s Brainpower™ is a potent combination of liposomal curcumin with resveratrol, both widely recognised for their powerful brain health benefits. The liposome technology uses phosphatidylcholine to quickly and effectively deliver the ingredients into the cells and includes a high concentration of curcumin 200mg and resveratrol 75mg in each serving (6ml). With its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this unique combination is highly recommended for those seeking to naturally support their brain health, including memory, cognition and mood. Pleasant tasting off the spoon or mixed into liquids for convenience and flexible dosing. Vegan. 180ml (approx 30 servings).


Yogi Tea® Mental Clarity Organic

Yogi Tea distributed by Euro Food Brands
Tel: 01604 821200
E-mail: [email protected]

You know those days when you just can’t concentrate, and your mind is in a completely different place? This is when pausing is the best recipe. Yogi Tea® Mental Clarity is a delicious tea with ginseng, lemon balm and eucalyptus, giving you a moment to take a breath – a little break to nurture mental clarity and focus on what matters. Minty and refreshing, this is the tea for everyone who needs to reenergise their mind. For a perfect brew, pour 250ml of freshly boiled water over the teabag and allow to infuse for 6 minutes. Enjoy!