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Menopause and memory loss: the key player in cognitive change

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Menopause is a naturally occurring phenomenon among women between the ages of 45-55 years. Evolution has developed menopause as a protective mechanism for ovaries against damage of constant exposure to oestrogen. Cognitive changes are also reported. Understanding these changes and how to manage them can make a positive difference in navigating menopause. 

Oestrogen: how does it affect memory?

Oestrogen, the female reproductive hormone, performs important functions in the brain. It is involved in the production of the brain chemical needed for learning and memory called acetylcholine. Choline is the building block of acetylcholine, and is an essential nutrient needed to be taken from the diet or supplements to meet the body’s needs. The liver can produce a form of choline, but it is insufficient to meet the needs. 

Oestrogen is involved in the following ways [1]:

  1. Facilitates production of choline in the body
  2. Promotes production and activation of acetylcholine-producing cells in the learning and memory areas of the brain
  3. Stimulates the release of the enzyme (compounds that speed up chemical reactions) that converts choline to acetylcholine
  4. Promotes brain cells response to acetylcholine

Due to this important role of oestrogen in memory, its decline in menopause sheds light on the possible link between menopause and dementia.

Menopause: what happens in the brain?

Oestrogen levels drop by 95% [2] during menopause. Brain functions involving oestrogen are affected. Animal studies found that decrease in oestrogen reduced the release of acetylcholine [3]. Menopause impacts the learning and memory areas of the brain. Decrease in oestrogen led to decrease in function of acetylcholine-producing cells in these areas [1]. The link between menopause and brain fog is possibly due to its role in the choline system. Postmenopausal women receiving oestrogen therapy showed increase in attention and memory when conducting cognitive tasks [1].

Acetylcholine: how to increase levels?

The body uses oestrogen to produce small amounts of choline. Low levels of oestrogen during menopause affect choline production. Low choline levels will contribute to less acetylcholine available to conduct learning and memory functions.

Less oestrogen → Less choline → Less acetylcholine

In the US between 2011 and 2014, less than 3% of women over the age of 70 consumed adequate choline to meet needs [4].  80% of postmenopausal women provided a low choline diet developed deficiency symptoms [5]. Almost 20% of them needed 275mg more choline than recommended to correct deficiency and meet their needs [5]. This hints at the possibility that the choline needs of menopausal women are much higher than previously known. An animal study of menopause showed that supplementation of fenugreek (rich in plant nutrients), choline and DHA (healthy brain fats), increased brain cells production and improved memory [6]. Patients on nutrition support receiving choline supplementation for 6 months performed better at memory tests [7]. Though further research is warranted in menopausal women regarding choline supplementation and its effect on brain health, current evidence provides a strong foundation for possible benefit. 

Alpha GPC: best form of choline?

Those with low choline in their diet can benefit from supplementation. Alpha GPC is a form of choline that can freely enter the brain to produce acetylcholine. It is 41% choline by weight and can increase choline levels faster than other sources. Alpha GPC can increase acetylcholine levels within 1-3 hours post intake [8]. Brain feed has created the world’s 1st 500mg Alpha GPC capsule containing 99% Alpha GPC* (the purest form of Alpha GPC). Read more about it here

References:

  1. Newhouse, P. et al. (2015). Estrogen–cholinergic interactions: Implications for cognitive aging. Hormones and Behavior, 74, pp.173–185. 
  2. Labrie, F. et al. (2012). DHEA and intracrinology at menopause, a positive choice for evolution of the human species. Climacteric, 16(2), pp.205–213. 
  3. Yoshida, J. et al. (2007). The effects of ovariectomy and estrogen replacement on acetylcholine release from nerve fibres and passive stretch-induced acetylcholine release in female rat bladder. Neurourology and Urodynamics, 26(7), pp.1050–1055. 
  4. Wallace, T.C. et al. (2018). Choline. Nutrition Today, 53(6), pp.240–253. 
  5. Fischer, L.M. et al. (2007). Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), pp.1275–1285.
  6. Konuri, A. et al. (2020). Supplementation of fenugreek with choline–docosahexaenoic acid attenuates menopause induced memory loss, BDNF and dendritic arborization in ovariectomized rats. Anatomical Science International, 96(2), pp.197–211. 
  7. Buchman, A.L. et al. (2001). Verbal and visual memory improve after choline supplementation in long-term total parenteral nutrition: a pilot study. JPEN. Journal of parenteral and enteral nutrition, [online] 25(1), pp.30–35.
  8. Frank, K. et al. (2022). Alpha-GPC Research Analysis. examine.com. [online]





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