Alex Whybrow examines the best BDNF supplements to improve the production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor as well as explaining ways to naturally produce more of this crucial neurotrophic protein.
BDNF, or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor to give it its full name, is absolutely vital in keeping our brains healthy and performing at their best. It is a neurotrophic protein that plays a critical role in how our central nervous system functions.
This quickly leads us on to our second question – what is a neurotrophic protein? Well, the name is a clue here: neuro relates to our nervous system, while trophic relates to nutrition and stimulation. So the neurotrophic family are proteins that help to protect and develop the neurons within our nervous system.
As you can probably tell from the name, BDNF is most closely linked to our brain cells. It helps to promote the growth of new brain cells, as well as protecting and nurturing our existing ones. By doing this, they help our brain cells communicate with each other more effectively. What this means to us, on a practical level, is that we can think quicker and more clearly.
BDNF also helps us with our long-term memory – the more our brain cells are protected, the more we can remember. On top of that, BDNF has been shown to increase the plasticity of our brains – this is our brain’s ability to react to stimuli from outside our bodies. Basically, what this means is that BDNF helps us to react better to whatever is happening in our lives.
Finally, BDNF is known to be an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory, which helps us stay feeling positive, as well as protecting our brains against damage.
BDNF is absolutely critical in maintaining healthy brains that perform to their full potential, so it is so important that we maintain the levels of BDNF in our system. One way to do this is with the use of BDNF supplements – so today I will be taking a look at the best natural BDNF supplement options.
TLDR: Best BDNF Supplement – NooCube
If you’re only here to discover the best BDNF supplement, then let me save you some time – it’s NooCube. This has an incredible ingredient profile and as well as helping you produce more BDNF, will also offer you a host of other cognitive benefits.
At the price, you will struggle to find a better BDNF supplement, this is one of my favorite nootropics.
Causes Of Low BDNF
With BDNF being so important for the function and protection of our brain cells, we need to be wary of things in our lives that can cause our levels of BDNF to drop. Low levels of BDNF has been linked to many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Not getting enough sleep can cause us to have low levels of BDNF – if we aren’t sleeping well, the production of BDNF drops dramatically.
This is closely linked to stress as well, which can also hamper BDNF production, and if we are tired, we are more likely to get stressed, which can affect our sleep – it’s a vicious circle and the result is that our BDNF levels are hit.
Unfortunately, getting older is also a cause of low BDNF levels – as we age, our BDNF production will gradually drop, which is part of the reason that it is so closely linked with age-related cognitive disorders like dementia.
Studies have even suggested that if a mother experiences a lot of stress while she is pregnant, it can lead to the baby having low BDNF levels for their entire lives.
How To Increase Your BDNF Levels Naturally
If this all seems pretty bleak, don’t worry, because there are some things that you can do to help increase the levels of BDNF in your bodies, and many of them are relatively simple and little changes that you can incorporate into your day to day life. Many will even off you other health benefits on top of the impact they have on BDNF production.
Here are some of the best ways to increase the amount of BDNF in your brain:
Get more sleep
Okay, this is an obvious one, given what we covered in the previous section, but sleep is so important to our levels of BDNF that one of the most important things that you can do for BDNF levels, and your general health, is to make sure you get enough sleep.
Sleep helps our all round cognitive performance – our focus, memory, ability to learn and our general mood. Most experts recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep every night, so if you consistently get less than this, sleep is a great place to start improving your BDNF levels.
One way to instantly increase the amount of BDNF in your body is to exercise – specifically aerobic exercise like running. Our bodies will immediately produce more as we exercise, but the results are even better when we get into the habit of exercising regularly.
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but aerobic exercise is particularly good for our brains as well, helping us to improve our memory, mood and general cognitive function.
Getting into direct sunlight and breathing some fresh air can do wonders for our bodies, especially the amount of BDNF that we produce. Going for a run outside, in clean fresh air, will do wonders for you.
Studies have shown that we tend to produce less BDNF when we see less of the sun, so get outside and start taking in some rays!
See your friends
You may think that this is a strange one, but studies have shown that social interaction has a significant impact on the amount of BDNF that we produce. If we isolate ourselves away from social interactions, it has major knock-on effects for our mood and general well-being, and this hampers the BDNF levels in our bodies.
So message your friends, and arrange to meet up – ideally outside somewhere!
Eat more protein
We need amino acids to help us produce BDNF in our bodies, and they happen to be the building blocks of protein. So when our bodies break down the protein, we have more of these helpful little amino acids that can help us to produce more BDNF. So try to ensure you are getting enough poultry, fish or dairy in your diets.
Drink a cup of coffee
Coffee beans are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which make them very useful when it comes to BDNF production (the fruit of coffee may be even better at stimulating production).
By just having a cup each day, you can help to increase your levels, but if you can get your hands on coffee fruit extract, that would be even more powerful.
One of the easiest ways to help you improve your BDNF levels is to take a supplement. There are so many out there that can help you, all packed with different ingredients that can stimulate BDNF production.
There are certain ingredients that are more useful than others. We have already mentioned how good coffee fruit extract is, but there are other natural ingredients like magnolia bark, ashwagandha, ginseng, resveratrol and bacopa which can help too.
Top 5 BDNF Supplements
The great thing about nootropic supplementation is that it can offer many other cognitive benefits on top of encouraging the production of BDNF.
There are so many out there, though, that it can be a bit bewildering, so I have compiled a list of my 5 favorite BDNF boosting supplements, which you can check out below:
Nooceptin is a great place to start this list of the best BDNF supplements because it articulates perfectly how a nootropic can have a variety of benefits, not just focus on one area of cognitive function.
It is made by a company from the UK called SAP Nutra, but in one of their facilities in the US, all of which have met FDA approval. We will be featuring another SAP Nutra product later on this list, which probably gives you some idea as to my faith in this brand! I am a fan of their work – they are a company that you can trust, and who have a proven background in the industry.
One thing I really like about them is the fact that they are honest about what you can expect from taking Nooceptin.
They don’t claim that this is some kind of magic pill that will instantly transform your brain, rather they focus on the science – that you can expect better blood flow in your brain, an improvement in brain cell growth and quicker connections between your neurons – but that these benefits will take time to show fully.
The result of these ‘background’ effects of taking Nooceptin are that you’ll have a better memory and less vulnerability to stress and anxiety. That’s ultimately what I found when I took Nooceptin, and I was able to get much more high level thinking work done, to a higher standard.
You can find our complete review of Nooceptin here, but suffice to say that it is one of our favorite nootropics. It represents good value, and we love the research that they provide you with to justify each ingredient’s inclusion.
Speaking of ingredients, here is the full list of Nooceptin ingredients:
Citicoline · Panax Ginseng · Ginkgo Biloba · Lion’s Mane Mushroom · Bacopa Monnieri · Rhodiola Rosea · L-Theanine
I don’t have the space to go into each one in this article, but I will take a few from each nootropic that we look at to give you a flavor of what you can expect if you take any of these products.
Citicoline is a compound that is naturally produced in our body and one that helps to increase the amount of other chemicals in our brain, like acetylcholine, which are thought to help you think more quickly. It has been used as a treatment for people that have suffered from a stroke, as well as being used to help fight against age-related cognitive decline.
Panax ginseng is one of the ingredients that we highlighted above this section that all have a major impact on the amount of BDNF produced within the body. A study in Korea, back in 2019, found that the cognitive performance of some subjects was greatly improved when they had been taking Panax ginseng for half a year.
Ginkgo biloba is a plant that is usually grown in Asia and has been used to treat a variety of ailments in Chinese medicine for centuries. It is thought to play a role in increasing blood flow into our brains, which in turn helps our brains to function at a greater level.
Top tip: Try taking the slightly larger dose of three capsules – while this makes it slightly more expensive per month, the results were considerably better when I upped the dose.
Another British nootropic now, as we look at Hunter Focus out of Leeds, England, from a company called Roar Ambition.
As you’ve probably already guessed from the name, the main aim of Hunter Focus is to improve your ability to concentrate and think clearly. There is more to it than that though, as it works on fighting against mental fatigue and improving your mood.
As a result of this wide range of benefits, Hunter Focus has a broad appeal. Do you know anyone that wouldn’t want to be able to focus more, while at the same time feeling more at peace and being able to work for longer? Me neither.
The ingredient list for Hunter Focus are one of the best that I’ve come across – it really is a great stack:
Acetyl-L-Carnitine · Caffeine Anhydrous · L-Tyrosine · L-Theanine · Citicoline · Organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom · Ashwagandha Root · Bacopa Monnieri · Phosphatidylserine · Maritime Pine Bark · Rhodiola Rosea · Panax Ginseng · Spanish Sage
You are probably already able to spot a few familiar ingredients that promote BDNF production, but let’s take a look at a couple of others:
This amino acid has been strongly linked to the prevention of cognitive decline, as well as helping to improve our memory and it has even been used to help treat depression.
One of the most popular ingredients to be used in nootropics, L-Tyrosine is another amino acid which we produce naturally in our bodies. It is best known for its ability to help us think clearly under stressful situations, but it can also help us get better sleep – which as we’ve seen has a critical role in BDNF production.
Top tip: This is a potent nootropic, so start off with a smaller dose and build up from there if you feel you need to
Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is produced by Opti-Nutra Limited, another UK-based company and one that has built itself a great reputation over the years.
The great thing about Mind Lab Pro is that it doesn’t just focus on the here and now. Sure, it does benefit your cognitive performance over a short period of time, but it also looks to protect your long-term brain health. It’s quite a bold move for a nootropic product, as they are normally marketed at a young crowd that doesn’t really want to worry about the long term future – they just want results now.
Anyway, Mind Lab Pro is a wonderful nootropic, and one that has always been reviewed well from both professionals and customers. It is another great supplement that focuses on a wide variety of cognitive issues.
When I tried Mind Lab Pro, I was blown away by how quickly I found the benefits kicking in – my brain was working at a different level within a week of me starting. I often suffer from ‘brain fog’, but that just didn’t happen when I was taking Mind Lab Pro.
So on to the ingredients, it’s another great stack, which is why we’ve included it on this list of the best BDNF supplements!
Vitamin B Complex · Citicoline · Bacopa Monnieri · Lion’s Mane Mushroom · Phosphatidylserine · L-Tyrosine · L-Theanine · Rhodiola Rosea
You’re probably experts in most of these ingredients by now! Let’s take a look at a couple that we haven’t yet covered:
Vitamin B Complex
Mind Lab Pro uses this ‘bundle’ of vitamin B’s, all of which have their own benefits. For the purposes of this piece, though, I am going to isolate vitamin B12, which has been proven to aid the production of BDNF, as well as benefiting general cognitive health and performance.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane mushroom has a wide variety of benefits, including helping to improve our mood, fighting against age-related cognitive decline and supporting our general health. It is also thought to play a role in boosting our BDNF, but more research is needed to clarify that. Regardless, it’s a great ingredient to include in a nootropic supplement.
Top tip: You may find that the recommended dose of four capsules is too much – start with two.
Another nootropic made by SAP Nutra now (like Nooceptin), as we look at VyvaMind. This supplement is a little bit different to the other ones that we have selected in the list so far, as it narrows on focus and high performance as the benefits, rather than having a more general spectrum.
That’s not to suggest that it isn’t a brilliant product though. It does exactly what you want it to do – giving you razor-like focus and incredible concentration. It probably didn’t have as big an impact as, say, Hunter Focus, but it was a nice little boost to my work productivity..
Perhaps the narrower aims of VyvaMind explains the much smaller list of ingredients – they have really honed in on ingredients that will benefit your focus and concentration, and left everything else out. Here is the entire list of ingredients:
Vitamin B6, L-Tyrosine, Vitamin B12, L-Theanine, Citicoline, Caffeine Anhydrous
We’ve already covered coffee fruit, but what about caffeine specifically? There is some research that suggests that caffeine does help to improve the levels of BDNF in our bodies, and that it can help to reduce the impact of age-related memory decline.
Regardless of this, we know that caffeine can help us focus, which is the main reason it is included in VyvaMind.
Top tip: Opt for a three month supply – it works out much cheaper than buying month-by-month
We’ll conclude this list of the best BDNF supplements with Noocube, possibly my favorite nootropic of all (although all of the products we’ve featured here could lay a claim to that title).
Made by Wolfson Brands, a huge name in the world of dietary supplements, Noocube is a wonderful nootropic that does a bit of everything: giving you better focus, increased brain energy, better memory, longer attention span, improved mood and even helping to improve the connection between our eyes and brain.
It’s a bit of a slow-burning nootropic. You won’t feel an overwhelming blast of energy or anything like that, but over the first month of me taking Noocube, I found that I was gradually experiencing all of the above benefits, and I was sleeping so much better (great for BDNF production).
Lutemax®, Bacopa Monnieri, Huperzia Serrata, Pterostilbene, Resveratrol, L-Theanine, L-Tyrosine, Alpha GPC, Oat Straw Extract, Cat’s Claw, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B7, Vitamin B12.
Lutemax® is a unique blend of carotenoids, found in marigold flowers, which helps our eyes deal with ‘blue light’ – the lights from the screens that most of us are staring at all day long! However, there has also been the suggestion that they can also help promote the production of BDNF.
Found in Chinese moss, huperzia serrata has been used to help treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia due its effect it has on mental decline. As we have seen, these diseases can be caused by a lack of BDNF, so there has been the suggestion that huperzia serrata may have a positive role to play in terms of BDNF production, but more research is required.
Top Tip: Be patient. If you don’t feel much after a week of taking Noocube, don’t worry – it will slowly build up and you may start to get the benefits before you even notice.
Maintaining regular levels of BDNF in our system is critical for the health and performance of our brains. The good news is that there are plenty of ways that we can ensure levels are kept up, and most of them are related to things that will have multiple benefits to our general health, like getting more sleep and getting regular exercise.
To make sure you always have enough, though, BDNF supplements are perfect. Not only will you get a boost to your BDNF production, but there are plenty of other cognitive benefits that you will experience.