The brain-protecting nutrient that almost slipped through the cracks

Why not even your doctor knows the secret to boosting your brainpower

If you’re concerned about preserving your mental function (and you should be, considering Alzheimer’s dementia is an epidemic in this country) you need to read this. Because it’s the only place you’ll hear about the unsung nutrient that suddenly has real scientists and researchers talking.

That’s right. While the mainstream medical world was bickering about beta-carotene—a carotenoid found in vegetables—my colleagues and I were doing some real science and discovering some true plant-based powerhouses.

Our discoveries went largely unnoticed (or perhaps intentionally buried). But today I’m going to tell you about one in particular that may very well make all the difference in helping you keep your memory from slipping through your fingers.

The fallacy of the “magic bullet”

Since the British Empire Cancer Campaign of the 1920s (described in more detail in my report Classified Cancer Answers that you received when you first subscribed to Insiders’ Cures), green, leafy vegetables have consistently been proven to lower the risk of just about every common cancer. This observation holds up today—nearly a century later. And not only for cancer but for other diseases as well.

Of course, 20th century biomedical research scientists have been focused on finding the single-ingredient “magic bullet” in these vegetables responsible for their disease- preventing benefits.

But the power of plants is not in a single component—it’s in the hundreds of natural vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals they contain. And many of those are the ingredients that my colleagues and I learned about through thorough scientific analysis at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center.

Here’s the really interesting thing, though: Among the hundreds of nutrients found, one did emerge as a powerful antidote to the cognitive decline that is plaguing our nation. Only you never heard about it—partially because deadwood government science bureaucrats were busy bungling their research looking for a supposed “magic bullet” (like beta-carotene).

As it turns out (and as we predicted), beta-carotene is only one of the many carotenoids found in some leafy green (and yellow-orange) vegetables. Carotenoids act as antioxidants to protect plants—which is an important reason plants can stay outside all day, exposed to solar radiation, heat, and other climatic assaults without just withering away. Carotenoids are also responsible for the brilliant colors we see in nature, especially in the fall when the green chlorophyll in leaves goes away, leaving the colorful carotenoid pigments behind.

And they can have just as dazzling an impact on the human body—if we’re using the right ones for the right purposes.

When research goes wrong

When the National Academy of Sciences in the United States finally began to recognize that food and nutrition play an integral role in cancer in the early 1980s (more than half a century after the British Empire’s observations), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched an effort to discover the “magic bullet” ingredient(s) in foods that could be isolated and used to help control cancer.

While largely ignoring the massive evidence already supporting vitamin C as an anticancer ingredient, NCI decided instead to focus on a then- obscure carotenoid, beta-carotene. This was before they knew to what extent beta-carotene was even present in the healthy vegetables that had been proven to fight cancer.

And that’s just the beginning of how they missed the mark…

New funding to help find anticancer agents in food went to the usual fat cats of government research at NIH (who knew next to nothing about human nutrition) instead of the government’s true nutrition experts at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland.

I had just been recruited into the NCI’s new program on nutrition and cancer, and the other young scientists and I were hamstrung by the stodgy pen pushers (who had been “re- organized” instead of replaced with knowledgeable researchers). But we didn’t let that stop us. The new team quickly realized we would have to collaborate with the USDA to get any real answers.

So we did, and quickly. But while we were entrenched in discovering the basics about the nutrient composition of foods, and the metabolic effects of these “new” carotenoids, the bureaucrats at NCI prematurely launched their infamous human clinical trials on beta-carotene. In essence, doing the expensive “advanced” research before the basic research was ever done.

We warned them, but they didn’t want to listen to the REAL SCIENCE. Instead, they persisted. Even after we tried to warn them about our own results—that beta- carotene is simply not present in the healthy foods that do protect against cancer—they went ahead with human trials on beta-carotene. And all they proved is that beta-carotene had no effect on cancer…and in fact it actually increased it in some groups of people.

In my case, they didn’t just ignore the results of the basic science—they effectively tried to suppress them. And I was not permitted to publish them until after I left the NIH myself. When I ultimately did publish them they earned me the Young Investigator Award at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

So the NCI put the cart before the horse. And the public has been looking at the wrong end of the horse ever since!

They wasted MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars, all because they didn’t do their homework. And the public is still paying the price.

But not only did they miss out on finding the nutrients that actually could make a difference—they set back true understanding about nutrition and cancer by decades in the minds of many physicians, scientists, and the public.

Of course Big Pharma was quick to pounce on the botched beta-carotene results as “proof” that nutrients are ineffective against cancer. Out of one side of their mouths, anyway. Meanwhile, they had launched a lucrative new industry for themselves selling synthetic carotenoid supplements.

Beta-carotene may have been a bust, but on the positive side, our own team of scientists did discover the importance of other carotenoids in human metabolism. And now I’ll show you what we ultimately learned about one in particular that is a true standout in the area of brain health.

The unsung brain-boosting hero

If you’ve heard of the carotenoid I’m about to tell you about, I can almost guarantee it wasn’t about its ability to protect brain function.

Lutein is best-known as a vision helper. But recent research highlights its cognitive effects as well. And it’s little wonder that something that helps the eyes would be good for the brain as well. The eye itself is a very specialized organ originating from brain and nervous tissue.

But there’s another obstacle when it comes to nourishing the eye and the brain: The blood-retina and blood- brain barriers are highly selective in granting entry. This normally protects the delicate eye, brain and nervous tissues against many toxic effects, but it also means that it takes a very special nutrient to get in.

Lutein is one of only two carotenoids that can penetrate the blood-retina barrier and the blood- brain barrier. Which makes it a critical tool in the emerging medical epidemic of Alzheimer’s dementia. But it’s important to note that lutein also has cognitive benefits for people without dementia.

Scientists have discovered that higher levels of lutein-related pigments in the eye are correlated with improved brain function. Global cognitive function, verbal fluency, and memory retention were all increased, and dementia decreased, in people with higher levels of these lutein-related pigments. Even in subjects who were 100 years old—or older.

Yet another study found that giving lutein alone or in combination with an omega fatty acid improved cognitive function, verbal fluency, learning ability, and memory in older women.

Bottom line: It appears lutein can improve cognitive function in older people in general—and also help prevent dementia. In the world of natural remedies, this finding is even more significant because the best-researched herbal remedy for cognitive function, Gingko biloba, has been proven to improve memory in people with documented cognitive impairment but not in the general population.

So, what do research scientists conclude about all these new findings? “Lutein warrants further research.” But for the millions of aging Americans watching their memory slip away, waiting for further research isn’t an option.

In the meantime, a dose of 12 mg per day of lutein just might be the natural memory enhancer you need. Boost the results by combining it with 800 mg/day of DHA omega fatty acids. And don’t forget to add berberine (500 mg per day, divided into two or three doses). As I explained in the December 2012 issue of Insiders’ Cures, recent research also shows very promising results using berberine in supporting brain function.


1. Johnson EJ. “A possible role for lutein and zeaxanthin in cognitive function in the elderly.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(5):1161S-1165S.

2. “Berberine: A potential multipotent natural product to combat Alzheimer’s Disease,” Molecules 2011; 16: 6,732-6,740

3. “Oren-gedoku-to and its Constituents with Therapeutic Potential in Alzheimer’s Disease Inhibit Indoleamine 2, 3-Dioxygenase Activity In Vitro,” J Alzheimers Dis 2010; 22(1):257-66

4. “Molecular Basis of Inhibitory Activities of Berberine against Pathogenic Enzymes in Alzheimer’s Disease,” The Scientific World Journal vol. 2012, Article ID 823201 (doi:10.1100/2012/823201)