Can everyday habits, products (coffee!) and strategies actually help your memory? Sometimes, yes, says P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.B.B.S., director of Duke University’s Neurocognitive Disorders Program and MH brain health advisor. Here, he weighs in on which popular memory products and strategies could help, from most likely to assist you to least likely to give you a boost.
A shot of espresso before an important meeting could help you absorb key facts. It’s a stimulant, which can improve certain types of memory.
2 Intermittent Fasting
Think of this as the opposite of a food coma. Fasting may help release specific brain chemicals that protect memory networks.
3 Crossword Puzzles
These can help you concentrate and recall words—which makes you better at these puzzles, not at remembering other things.
4 Music Making
Jamming means helpful focus. Singing may be even better. Spoken and sung words use different pathways; it’s like having backup cell-phone towers.
Your brain’s like a librarian at night, archiving the day’s “books.” Without that, Dr. Doraiswamy says, “you can’t make sense of the library the next day.”
Glucose is your brain’s preferred fuel, so a dose of sugar may improve your memory immediately. But it gets fed just fine with healthier fare.
7 Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish help build gray matter and improve white-matter integrity. Whether that helps your memory? Not clear.
Memory improvement has been measured with 500 mg of cocoa extract in recent studies; its anti-inflammatory effect may be why. But it’s only somewhat likely to be of real help.
The trendy weed-derived ingredient could have calming effects, but it likely won’t help (or hurt) your memory.
10 Gingko Biloba
This extract might help prevent dementia in older folks, but there’s no evidence that it improves a young person’s memory.
Some claim this herb can boost your memory and energy, but studies have not proved either, and it could cause health problems.