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BDNF - Brain-derived neurotropic factor

BDNF: Why We Need It, and How To Get It

 BDNF is brain-derived neurotropic factor. BDNF tends to decline with age, but luckily there are ways to minimize this.

 This fascinating protein participates in many key body processes. To name a few:

  • Neural plasticity, which is the creation of new neurons (a.k.a nerve cells) in the brain as well as maximizing the current nerve pathways.
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Positively impacts metabolic syndrome
    • Metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and cholesterol. BDNF has a positive impacts ALL of those!
  • Exhibits anti-depressant activity, mood elevation (increases serotonin turnover)
  • Decreases risk of neurological diseases. Lower levels present in
    • Parkinson’s
    • Alzheimer’s
    • MS
    • Huntington’s Disease
    • Bipolar disease, schizophrenia
  • Heart protective
  • IBS, and indigestion

 There are some things we can do to naturally increase BDNF

  • Exercise
    • HIIT
    • Moderate to high intensity aerobic exercise (running, biking, etc)
  • Reduce carbohydrate intake (below 50gr/day)
  • Consume polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) available in:
    • Blueberries
    • Coffee
    • Green Tea
    • Dark Chocolate
    • Coffee Fruit extract
  • Consume foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines
    • Pecans, Walnuts
    • Cod liver oil
    • Flax and Chia seeds
    • Cold pressed olive oil
    • Eggs
    • Spinach, Brussels sprouts
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
  • Magnesium supplementation
  • Intermittent Fasting (food restriction ranging from 16-48 hrs)

 As you can see BDNF is a powerful modulator of our overall health and wellbeing. We do not have to be a victim of decreasing levels, as simple daily strategies have a positive impact. All of these strategies have other health-promoting properties as well so it’s a win-win.


Written by Jessi Cushenberry, trainer at Brookfield Country Club. Jessi has a degree in exercise science from UGA.


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