Brain Ageing, Cognition and Diet: A Review of the Emerging Roles of Food-Based Nootropics in Mitigating Age-related Memory Decline

Curr Aging Sci. 2019;12(1):2-14. doi: 10.2174/1874609812666190311160754.


Background: Age-related cognitive decline has been suggested to result from an increase in the brain neuron loss, which is attributable to continued derangement of the brain's oxidant/ antioxidant balance. Increased oxidative stress and a concomitant decrease in the brain's antioxidant defense system have been associated with functional senescence and organismal ageing. However, nature has configured certain foods to be rich sources of nootropic agents, with research showing that increased consumption of such foods or food ingredients may be protective against ageing-related memory decline. This knowledge is becoming increasingly valuable in an era when the boundary that separates food from medicine is becoming blurred. In this review, we examine extant literature dealing with the impact of ageing on brain structure and function, with an emphasis on the roles of oxidative stress. Secondly, we review the benefits of food-based antioxidants with nootropic effects and/or food-based nootropic agents in mitigating memory decline; with a view to improving our understanding of likely mechanisms. We also highlight some of the limitations to the use of food-based nootropics and suggest ways in which they can be better employed in the clinical management of age-related cognitive decline.

Conclusion: While it is known that the human brain endures diverse insults in the process of ageing, food-based nootropics are likely to go a long way in mitigating the impacts of these insults. Further research is needed before we reach a point where food-based nootropics are routinely prescribed.

Keywords: Ageing; antioxidants; dementia; nootropic; nutraceuticals; nutrition..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nootropic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Primary Prevention / methods
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antioxidants
  • Nootropic Agents