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Cognitive Wellness: Lifestyle Changes and The Power of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNT)

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

From Good to Great: More Energy, Focus and Motivation with Simple Science-Backed Lifestyle Changes.

Imagine your brain as a finely tuned orchestra, each neuron an instrument, playing a crucial role in the symphony of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. At the conductor's podium stands Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), the maestro orchestrating this intricate composition. In this article, we delve into the profound influence of BDNF on mental and cognitive health, and how you can take the reins through lifestyle modifications.
Cognition's Guardian Angel Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is a vital protein present in our brains that plays a significant role in maintaining brain health. It is particularly important for synaptic plasticity- the brain's capacity to rewire itself, and to foster the growth of new neurons, which is essential for memory and learning functions. BDNF helps regulate the expression of genes that contribute to brain plasticity, stress tolerance, cell survival and neurogenesis.
A Universal Concern: Why should BDNF matter to everyone, not just neuroscientists?
Picture BDNF as the guardian of your cognitive and emotional well-being. Its presence elevates cognitive functions like memory, learning, and problem-solving. Beyond cognition, BDNF wields an influence over metabolic processes, impacting appetite, insulin sensitivity, and even cardiovascular balance [2]. Its universal importance transcends age, gender, and profession, making it a compelling topic for every individual.
BDNF and Cognitive Health BDNF plays a multifaceted role in cognitive health. It drives synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, neuronal survival, and memory formation. Aging-related decline in BDNF levels has been closely associated with heightened risks of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
BDNF and Mental Health
Moreover, BDNF has a big role in how we feel. A recent publication in the esteemed journal "Nature,"[2] revealed its role in depression. When we're stressed or going through depression, BDNF levels can change in different parts of our brain: notably, BDNF levels increase in areas like the amygdala and nucleus accumbens, while decreasing in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex. These changes impact the atrophy, disconnection, and dysfunction of circuits associated with depression causing things like memory troubles and low mood.

Effects of BDNF levels in various neuropsychiatric conditions

The Power Within: Lifestyle Modification Can a Small Action Transform Your Health? Imagine if you held the power to influence and potentially halt Alzheimer's or prevent depression. Would you seize it? BDNF acts as the bridge between your choices and brain health. Epigenetics refers to how external factors can modify gene expression without altering the underlying DNA sequence, essentially affecting how your genes "behave" in response to your surroundings. Think of epigenetics as the conversation between your environment and your body's equilibrium. Science reveals that tweaking your lifestyle and diet could elevate BDNF in your brain. By embracing healthy routines, you could safeguard your brain's vitality, lower the risk of Alzheimer's, and shield against depression's grip."
Amplifying with Exercise
Exercise holds a special significance in this context. When we engage in physical activity, particularly high-intensity workouts, our brain and body undergo positive transformations. This transformative process includes an elevation in BDNF levels - a crucial protein for our brain's health. This surge in BDNF acts as a signal, prompting our brain to become more adaptable and flexible, which greatly benefits our cognitive functions such as memory and learning. Even short periods of exercise can yield positive effects on our cognitive abilities, help counter mood disorders, and serve as a defense against depression. Interestingly, the impact of exercise on BDNF can vary slightly between genders, with males generally experiencing a more pronounced increase. It's also worth noting that aerobic exercises like running or cycling appear to have a more potent influence on BDNF compared to strength training. Consistency is key here. Engaging in regular exercise sessions over time leads to a more significant enhancement of BDNF levels compared to sporadic bursts of activity.
Fueling with Nutrition : a bridge between dietary choices and cognitive well-being.
Our diet has a big impact on our brain health. What we eat can influence how our genes express themselves, affecting things like hormones, brain chemicals, and how our brain cells communicate with each other.
Energy Intake: The Fasting Factor Caloric restrictions and various types of fasting have been tested for their effects on BDNF levels. Interestingly, hypocaloric diets especially in subjects with mental disorders like depression yielded significant increases in serum BDNF concentrations.
Mediterranean diet, celebrated for its holistic benefits, has been linked to increased BDNF production [1] as much as incorporating foods rich in polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics [4]. But there are some special things that can boost BDNF - the superhero protein in our brain, other than just exercise and diet.

Ginseng Extracts



Mangosteen Pericarp

In essence, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are not solely advantageous for our physical well-being; it profoundly benefits our brain health as well. By boosting BDNF levels, healthy habits enhance mood, aids memory, and contributes positively to the management of depression.

Navigating the world of lifestyle modifications can be overwhelming. While you're empowered to make changes, remember the importance of professional guidance. Always consult a nutritionist before making significant dietary shifts or starting supplements. Individual needs vary, and tailored advice ensures your journey is safe and effective. That's where services like Kus Counseling step in. Our expertise in cognitive health and well-being can guide you on your journey to harnessing the power of BDNF.

Ref: [1] Gravesteijn, E., Mensink, R. P., & Plat, J. (2021). Effects of nutritional interventions on BDNF concentrations in humans: A systematic review. Published online: January 10, 2021.
[2] Nilsson, J., Ekblom, Ö., Ekblom, M. et al. Acute increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor in plasma following physical exercise relates to subsequent learning in older adults. Nature. Sci Rep 10, 4395 (2020).
[3] Seidler, K., & Barrow, M. (2021). Intermittent fasting and cognitive performance – Targeting BDNF as a potential strategy to optimize brain health. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 130, 366-372.
[4] Xue, B., Waseem, S. M. A., Zhu, Z., Alshahrani, M. A., Nazam, N., Anjum, F., ... Sharma, M. (2022). Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Connecting Link Between Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 16, 925991.
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