What Is BDNF and How Can It Help Us?

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been receiving a lot of attention in health, wellness, and anti-aging communities in recent years, and with good reasons. This protein plays an essential role in preserving existing nerve cells and encouraging a process called neurogenesis in which new cells and synapses are formed. Read on to find out what everyone should know about BDNF.

Why BDNF Levels Matter?

BDNF plays a vital role in preserving brain health. The protein has a significant influence on mood, sleep, appetite, learning, memory, behavior, and more. Unfortunately, BDNF levels don’t remain stable throughout people’s lifetimes. They get lower with advancing age, which means people who want to reduce the impact of age-related health conditions need to learn how to increase BDNF naturally

Factors Associated With Low BDNF Levels

The most significant factor associated with BDNF levels in healthy individuals is age. Levels of BDNF are highest while the brain and nervous system are still developing, facilitating the development of motor skills and other crucial functions. As people age, BDNF levels decline. Thankfully, while no one can escape aging entirely, there are a variety of other factors that can also lead to low BDNF levels. They include:

  •  Chronic neurological conditions

Insulin resistance from type 2 diabetes

A history of trauma or stress

Tobacco smoking

A sedentary lifestyle

Air pollution exposure

Eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet

Ways to Raise BDNF Naturally

The good news is that many of these factors can be controlled. People living sedentary lifestyles can try high-intensity interval training or simply exercise more often to increase their BDNF levels. For those who don’t have the physical ability to perform intensive exercises, any amount of physical activity can still help. Combining physical activity with mental exercises is even more effective.

Those who eat unhealthy diets high in sugar and fat may want to consider switching to a diet that contains foods known to boost BDNF, which include pomegranate, fish, olive oil, blueberries, and dark chocolate, among others. Dieters can also try calorie restriction or intermittent fasting, both of which are effective at increasing BDNF and improving cognition even without changes to what kinds of foods they are eating.

Food and exercise aren’t the only lifestyle factors that directly affect BDNF levels. Sunlight exposure is also positively correlated. The more time people spend outside in the sun, the better. This is especially true in winter, when seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and indeed any form of depression, can also contribute to low BDNF levels and can be alleviated with antidepressant medications.

What’s the Easiest Way to Boost BDNF?

For those who don’t want to completely change their lifestyles, incorporating plant-based extracts can raise BDNF levels to give a mood boost and improve cognition. The use of nutrients and botanicals to enhance BDNF is still most effective when combined with positive lifestyle changes. However, anyone can benefit from taking supplements like:

  •  Curcumin


Alpha-lipoic acid


Green tea



Rhodiola rosea

Ginkgo biloba

And others

Just be sure to purchase supplements and botanicals from a reputable vendor.

Preserve Brain Health by Keeping BDNF Levels High

BDNF is critical for not just performing higher brain functions but also having a healthy brain and central nervous system. Maintaining high levels of BDNF is a good way to combat many of the negative impacts of aging on cognitive health and mood, and it’s relatively easy to do. Just follow the advice above to maintain healthy brain function throughout an entire lifespan.

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