After losing a family member to brain-related illness, Angus Brown decided it was time to learn about the impact our lifestyle has on the brain. His journey saw him launch Ārepa – a functional drink formulated with a psychopharmacology professor from Melbourne. We caught up with Brown who shares his favourite brain-health boosting foods, apps and more below.
Tell us what you do in two sentences… I am the co-founder of Ārepa – New Zealand’s first brainfood technology company. We’re leading a shift to nutrition that is completely natural, backed by neuroscience, and good for your mind.
In simple terms, nootropics is… a buzz word to describe ‘compounds that can enhance cognition’. They can range from natural to pharmaceutical with varying levels of efficacy and safety. For example, coffee is one of the most common natural nootropics in the world and Ritalin for ADHD is a common pharmaceutical one. We focus on plant-based, caffeine-free nootropics that are safe, have compelling evidence that we can unlock and are unique to New Zealand.
My go-to brain-health-boosting foods are… A recent high ranking study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a high intake of flavonoids lowered the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Flavonoids are responsible for the vivid colours in fruits and vegetables.
My favourite, and one of the most potent on the planet, is a unique variety of New Zealand Blackcurrant called Neuroberry, it contains more flavonoids than blueberry and more vitamin c than kiwifruit. What excites me most is in early-stage research it could inhibit an enzyme that consumes serotonin and dopamine and oxidizes in the brain, people with high levels of this activity are often at risk of conditions such as depression or Parkinson’s. This is part of the research we’re unlocking at the moment.
My other brain health-boosting foods are:
– L-theanine – a rare amino acid found in green tea and matcha that can reduce stress without making you drowsy. I love it as it can also counter the negative effects of caffeine such as the jitters and improve sleep quality.
– Dark chocolate – The flavonoids in chocolate may help protect the brain. Studies have suggested that eating chocolate could boost both memory and mood. I love it for the taste!
– Broccoli – It’s very high in vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for memory and forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells.
The key things everyone can do to boost brain health are… I think there are three key pillars – diet, exercise and mindfulness.
Diet is eating and drinking responsibly and understanding how your body reacts to what you put inside yourself. Exercise is obvious and I think we should all do it 2-4 times a week, doesn’t have to be the gym, could be a nature walk, yoga via a youtube video or a run around the block. Mindfulness is exercise for the brain which is also a muscle, engaging it in brain games, puzzles, books, a new language, meditation etc these create new pathways which help keep the brain humming. Never stop here. As soon as you stop you stagnate. Recently I have really been interested in breathwork inspired by what Wim Hof is achieving (27+ world records using his breath to control his mind and body). I do this most mornings and find it helps to set me up for the day.
The one thing I can’t live without is… What a tough question! I think for me, it’s music.
I find inspiration by… Travelling, meeting new interesting people and going for my daily run, I find I come up with my ideas and solve problems in the last 15mins!
To relax I like by… Golf, tennis, yoga, reading my book in the sun.
The last great book I read was… Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (founder of Nike) – he battled for some time before Nike became a success, it’s nice to know this when running a start up!
My current go-to podcasts are…
Local – Simon Pound’s Business is Boring
Business – Exit Strategy with Moiz Ali
Interesting – Earths Ancients – frontiers of archaeological theories of where we came from – a good bedtime listen!
You’ll find me dining at… We are spoilt for choice living in Auckland. Everybody Eats by Nick Loosley is a great cause. I also love Orphans Kitchen.
The app I can’t live without is… Wim Hof Method – breathwork, stretching and cold showers!
My next big plan for Ārepa is… 1 in 6 humans on this planet are affected by neurological concerns, our goal is to bridge the gap between food and medicine and feed the brain in the modern world, representing the best of New Zealand Inc on the world stage. We currently have five clinical studies underway investigating Ārepa’s effects on cognitive performance and neurological health, so its continuing that research and expanding our business into Australia and the US.