Ginkgo enhances the positive effect of physical activity on your brain
Physical activity, and certainly intense physical activity, is just as good for your brain cells as for your muscle cells. And it could just be that that positive cerebral effect of physical activity becomes stronger if you also use a supplement with Ginkgo biloba, write Polish scientists in Nutrients.
For 6 weeks, the researchers gave 9 healthy male students aged 20-24 years 2 capsules with an extract of Ginkgo biloba at breakfast every day. Each capsule contained 80 milligrams of extract, with 9.2 milligrams of flavonoid glycosides and 4.8 milligrams of terpene lactones. The Poles used the product Ginkoflav forte from Olimp Labs.
A control group of 9 other students received a placebo.
Before and after the supplementation, the students had to cycle to failure in the researchers' lab. Every 3 minutes, the researchers increased the intensity of the exercise, until the students had to give up.
Supplementation with Ginkgo biloba increased the maximum oxygen uptake [VO2max], the main predictor of cardiovascular fitness. The effect was demonstrable, but modest. It may be too small to increase performance levels.
Both before and after the supplementation period, the concentration of BDNF in the subjects' blood was slightly increased 3 minutes after the physical exertion. After the supplementation period, this increase was still present after an hour among the subjects in the Ginkgo biloba group.
BDNF is a kind of growth hormone for the brain. It stimulates the formation of new connections between the brain cells, and keeps them young.
"Our results show that six weeks' supplementation with a standardized Ginkgo biloba extract in physically active young men may provide some marginal improvements in their endurance performance expressed as VO2max", write the researchers. "Moreover, it may provide somewhat better neuroprotection through increased exercise-induced production of BDNF."
"Polyphenols contained in Ginkgo biloba extract may provide [...] health benefits, such as neuroprotection regulated by neurotrophic factors, among which the best studied are nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)."
"The effect of regular physical activity on the structure and cognitive functions of the brain has been well documented by experimental and observational studies. Regular physical exercise of moderate intensity has a favorable influence on brain vascularization and blood flow, thus improving oxygen and nutrient supply. Physical effort may enhance memory through neurogenesis, changes in the levels of neurotransmitters, and neurotrophic factors, primarily in the brain regions of the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, hypothalamus, and cerebellum."
"Potential synergy between dietary polyphenol consumption and physical activity may also involve signaling pathways regulating different stages of neurogenesis, cell fate, synaptic plasticity, cognitive performance, and blood vessel function. Hence, a combination of active lifestyle and dietary supplements of natural origin seems to be an optimal strategy for improving or maintaining brain function."
Nutrients. 2017 Jul 26;9(8).
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