BDNF a Biohackers Best Friend

Biohackers are known to exercise, meditate, and practice intermittent fasting. All of these lifestyle choices have been shown to increase BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is a protein that acts like Miracle-Gro for the brain. By helping neurons thrive and creating new ones we are rewarded with a better long term memory, easier acquisition of new skills and a cognitive boost. When we don’t do enough to encourage BDNF our learning slows, problems with memory occur and even depression can set in. What techniques and supplements can help us boost our BDNF? Fortunately, there have been many studies on this topic which can provide specific duration, effort and quantities to maximize BDNF production.
Daily activities to Increase BDNF

  1. Exercise
    1. 70-85% maximum heart rate effort for peak BDNF (aerobic) – 3x resting BDNF levels
    2. High Intensity Interval Training (anaerobic) – 3 min sprint, 2 min rest, 3 min sprint – 20% fast vocabulary learning
  2. Meditate – daily practice 45 total minutes a day has been found to be the most effective (ouch!)
  3. Dietary restriction either caloric or intermittent fasting
  4. Sleep – 7+ hours with deep sleep being of critical importance
  5. Sunlight Exposure – direct to skin when possible
  6. Socialize – Possibly the most difficult on the list. Highly stimulating and social environment had elevated neurotrophic levels.
Netherlands study of 2,851 individuals comparing BDNF to seasonal light
Foods, Vitamins and Supplements that boost BDNF

  • Avoid sugars and a high calorie diet which are believed to reduce BDNF
  • Oily fish or krill oil increase omega 3s which contain DHA
  • Turmeric contains curcumin – use black pepper or coconut oil to boost absorption
  • Blueberries contain anthocyanin and have been shown along with other flavanols to enhance spatial memory and BDNF
  • Red grapes (red wine and dark berries) contains resveratrol also sold as a supplement
  • White or green tea – contain EGCG which potentiates neuritogenic action of BDNF
  • Whole coffee fruit extract – 100mg dose increased BDNF on average of 143%

Emerging findings suggest that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) serves widespread roles in regulating energy homeostasis by controlling patterns of feeding and physical activity, and by modulating glucose metabolism in peripheral tissues. BDNF mediates the beneficial effects of energetic challenges such as vigorous exercise and fasting on cognition, mood, cardiovascular function, and on peripheral metabolism. By stimulating glucose transport and mitochondrial biogenesis BDNF bolsters cellular bioenergetics and protects neurons against injury and disease. By acting in the brain and periphery, BDNF increases insulin sensitivity and parasympathetic tone. Genetic factors, a ‘couch potato’ lifestyle, and chronic stress impair BDNF signaling, and this may contribute to the pathogenesis of metabolic syndrome. Novel BDNF-focused interventions are being developed for obesity, diabetes, and neurological disorders.

  • Exercise promotes the expression of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) through the action of the ketone body β-hydroxybutyrate.

  • Early social enrichment shapes social behavior and nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in the adult mouse brain.
  • Physical Exercise and Antidepressants Enhance BDNF Targeting in Hippocampal CA3 Dendrites: Further Evidence of a Spatial Code for BDNF Splice Variants
  • High impact running improves learning.
  • Dietary levels of pure flavonoids improve spatial memory performance and increase hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
  • Meal size and frequency affect neuronal plasticity and vulnerability to disease: cellular and molecular mechanisms.
  • Energy intake, meal frequency, and health: a neurobiological perspective.
  • Dietary levels of pure flavonoids improve spatial memory performance and increase hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
  • The Roles of BDNF in the Pathophysiology of Major Depression and in Antidepressant Treatment
  • Antidepressant-like effects of curcumin in WKY rat model of depression is associated with an increase in hippocampal BDNF
  • Green tea catechins potentiate the neuritogenic action of brain-derived neurotrophic factor: role of 67-kDa laminin receptor and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Modulatory effect of coffee fruit extract on plasma levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy subjects

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