How to Increase BDNF in the Brain

  • 13 min read

We all want to be smarter, sharper, and more productive but with the daily hustle and bustle, it’s easy for our cognitive health to take a backseat.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that plays an essential role in the growth and survival of neurons. It is one of the key factors that determine the strength and function of our neural pathways, and a significant lack of it could lead to numerous cognitive problems.

Therefore, learning how to increase BDNF levels can potentially have a powerful impact on our brain health. Let's explore some ways you can boost your brain with these simple steps.

human brain bdnf

What is BDNF?

BDNF stands for "brain-derived neurotrophic factor." Put simply; it's a protein that helps your brain cells grow and survive.

Without BDNF, these cells would gradually degrade, leading to a range of neurological disorders. However, high levels of BDNF promote neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to create new neural pathways — which can help with learning, memory, and overall brain function.

One of the most exciting things about BDNF is its potential for preventing and treating depression and anxiety. Studies have found that individuals with high levels of BDNF are less likely to experience these mental health issues.

On the other hand, low levels of BDNF have been associated with depression and anxiety disorders. This is why many researchers believe that increasing BDNF levels could be an effective treatment strategy for these conditions.

Another area where BDNF may be useful is in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. While the exact causes of Alzheimer's are still unknown, studies have found that individuals with Alzheimer's tend to have lower levels of BDNF. This suggests that boosting BDNF could potentially help prevent or slow the progression of this disease.

Research has also found that BDNF may help protect against stroke damage and other brain injuries. When the brain experiences trauma, BDNF levels naturally rise, which stimulates the regrowth and repair of damaged neurons.

By promoting the growth of new brain cells, BDNF may be able to aid in the recovery process following a stroke or other injury.

BDNF and Your Health

BDNF is important for many aspects of our lives, from supporting healthy cognitive function to improving our mood and reducing stress.


Did you know that BDNF levels can affect your metabolism and weight? Studies have shown that individuals with lower BDNF levels tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and greater risk for obesity.

This may be due to the fact that BDNF plays a role in regulating appetite and energy balance. So, if you're struggling with weight management, it may be worth considering ways to increase your BDNF levels such as exercise or a healthy diet.

Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

BDNF also plays a role in regulating our sleep and circadian rhythms. Researchers have found that individuals with lower BDNF levels may experience disrupted sleep patterns, which can have negative impacts on mood and cognitive function.

Additionally, studies have shown that exposure to natural light can increase BDNF levels and improve circadian rhythms, which can lead to better sleep and overall health.

Love and Relationships

Did you know that BDNF levels can also be influenced by our social interactions and relationships? Research has shown that being in loving relationships can increase BDNF levels and improve numerous aspects of health, including reducing stress and improving immune function.

Brain Disorders

BDNF has also been studied extensively for its potential in treating and preventing various brain disorders. This includes conditions such as depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

Researchers believe that BDNF may be able to protect and repair brain cells, as well as promote healthy neural growth and function. While more research is needed, the potential benefits of BDNF in treating and preventing brain disorders are promising.


Last but not least, BDNF is important for overall wellness and maintaining a healthy brain. Whether you're looking to boost cognitive function, reduce stress, or improve your mood, BDNF can help.

In addition to the suggestions mentioned above, other lifestyle factors that can increase BDNF levels include meditation, mindfulness, and even exposure to nature.

Ways to Increase BDNF

Are you curious about how to increase BDNF naturally? Here are a few options to try.

Keep Stress Under Control

One of the most potent inhibitors of BDNF is stress. When you experience prolonged stress, your cortisol levels rise, which compromises the health of your brain cells and reduces your brain's plasticity.

By implementing stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or regular exercise, you can reduce your stress levels and increase your BDNF production. 

Get Social

Humans are social creatures, and social isolation or loneliness can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. Regular social interactions with friends, family, or community members can increase our BDNF levels, enhance our neuroplasticity, and improve our cognitive function.

So, don't be afraid to make connections, join clubs, attend events, or volunteer for a cause that you value. Your brain will thank you for it.

Restrict Your Carbohydrate Intake and Up Your Protein

Another way to increase your BDNF is to follow a low-carb, high-protein diet. Carbohydrates, especially refined ones, increase your insulin levels, which in turn, reduce your BDNF production and promote inflammation.

On the other hand, proteins, especially those that are rich in amino acids like tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine, can boost your BDNF levels and improve your mood, memory, and attention. So, focus on eating more eggs, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and limit your intake of bread, pasta, sweets, and processed snacks.

Give Intermittent Fasting a Try

Intermittent fasting is a popular strategy to improve overall health, but it also boosts BDNF levels. Intermittent fasting involves abstaining from food for a set period, ranging from 16-18 hours, followed by an eating window of 6-8 hours.

Studies indicate that a 16-hour fast results in a noticeable boost in BDNF levels. Intermittent fasting can also improve insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and promote weight loss. If you're not ready to commit to 16 hours of fasting, try starting at 12 hours and gradually increase to find what works for you.

Increase Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is essential for bone health, and it also plays a role in brain function. Individuals with higher vitamin D levels have a history of better cognitive function. Vitamin D synthesis is triggered by sunlight exposure to the skin.

However, during the colder months, and less access to sunlight, opt to take supplements or consume vitamin D-rich foods, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms

Try an Increase BDNF Supplement

Various supplements can increase BDNF levels in the body. For example, the NZT-48 Limitless supplement contains natural ingredients such as theobromine, Ginkgo Biloba, and Huperzine-A. 

These natural ingredients boost BDNF expression and neurogenesis, which leads to an improvement in cognition, memory, and mental clarity. Always talk to your doctor before beginning supplements.

Do Some High-Intensity Interval Training

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an excellent way to increase your BDNF levels. HIIT involves short bursts of intense physical activity followed by recovery periods.

A recent study found that after six weeks of HIIT, participants increased their BDNF levels by up to 50%. The good news is, you don’t need to be a gym rat to do HIIT. You can do it at home without any equipment.

Here’s a simple HIIT workout that you can try at home:

  • Warm-up for 5 minutes with gentle movements such as jogging in place or jumping jacks.
  • During the workout, do 30 seconds of an intense activity such as sprinting or jumping jacks.
  • Follow each high-intensity activity with a 30-second recovery period such as walking or stretching.
  • Repeat this cycle 5-10 times.
  • Cool down with gentle movements and stretching for 5 minutes.

By doing HIIT at least three times a week, you can promote brain health and boost your overall fitness level.

Try the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that has gained popularity in recent years for weight loss and overall health benefits. It’s also been found to increase BDNF levels.

One study found that after three months of following a ketogenic diet, participants saw significant increases in their BDNF levels. The ketogenic diet works by reducing the intake of carbohydrates and increasing the intake of healthy fats.

When the body is in ketosis, it produces ketones, which the brain can use as fuel instead of glucose. This can help improve brain function and increase BDNF levels.

If you’re interested in trying the ketogenic diet, make sure to consult with a healthcare professional first. The diet may not be right for everyone and may require close monitoring.

What Foods Increase BDNF?

If you want to improve your cognitive function, there are also some foods that increase BDNF.


These tiny berries pack a powerful punch when it comes to brain health. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, which have been shown to improve memory and overall cognitive function.

Additionally, they are rich in flavonoids, compounds that help increase BDNF levels in the brain. Try adding blueberries to your morning smoothie or tossing them into your oatmeal for an extra cognitive boost.


Turmeric, the bright yellow spice commonly found in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, is rich in curcumin, a compound known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Curcumin may also increase BDNF levels, which could improve brain function and mood. If you’re not a fan of turmeric’s taste, try adding it to your egg omelet, rice dishes, or soups.

Green Tea

Containing a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, which help protect brain cells from damage.

Drinking green tea can increase BDNF levels and improve memory. Try replacing your afternoon cup of coffee with a cup of green tea to help increase alertness and reduce stress.

Coffee Fruit Concentrate

While caffeine has long been known to increase alertness and focus, coffee fruit concentrate has been shown to have even greater benefits. This extract from the berry that surrounds coffee beans has been found to increase BDNF levels and improve cognitive function.

Not only can coffee fruit concentrate provide a cognitive boost, but it can also benefit overall metabolic health.

dark chocolate over wooden background

Dark Chocolate

If you’re looking for a sweet treat that’s also good for your brain, look no further than dark chocolate. High in antioxidants and flavonoids, dark chocolate has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, leading to better cognitive performance and mood.

Theobromine, an alkaloid found in dark chocolate, has been shown to increase BDNF levels. If you don’t like the taste of dark chocolate, try incorporating cocoa powder into your oatmeal or smoothies. This alkaloid can also be found in NZT-48 the Limitless Pill.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our body cannot produce, so we need to get them from our diet. They are found in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can increase BDNF levels, improve memory, and even reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Try incorporating fatty fish such as salmon or sardines into your meals or snacking on walnuts for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can add to your diet. Full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can improve heart health, olive oil has also been shown to boost BDNF levels in the brain. Try using it as a salad dressing or drizzling it over your veggies for an added brain boost.

What Are the Best Supplements to Increase BDNF?

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is an essential protein for brain health. Incorporating these simple steps into your daily routine can help increase BDNF production, yielding exciting benefits for your cognitive health. There are several supplements that can also increase its production. 

Omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, Bacopa Monnieri, resveratrol, and NZT-48 the Limitless Pill have all been shown to support BDNF levels and enhance brain performance. NZT-48 the Limitless Pill in particular supports neuroplasticity and prevents cognitive decline with its key ingredients.

Give it a try today - and kick that low BDNF to the curb!