Vitamin! Vitamins!! What should you take? It becomes all so confusing.
Let's try to help remove some of this confusion. Let’s start with the B-vitamins, as they are important to improving our memory.
All the B-vitamins help the body convert food into fuel that produces energy.
Let’s look at their individualized contribution. The B-vitamins include:
B-1 Thiamine – called the anti-stress vitamin.
B-2 Riboflavin – helps calm and maintain a hearty nervous system.
B-3 Niacin – helps to increase your good cholesterol.
B-5 & B-7 Pantothenic Acid – helps break down protein, carbohydrates, fats and improve metabolism.
B-6 Involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions. Important to how we metabolize food.
B-12 and Folic Acid are particularly important to brain health.
The B vitamins are vital for the breaking down carbohydrates, fats and proteins. So our body and brain can utilize these nutrients.
As we age, our brains cells naturally shrink. Researchers now believe that those with the greatest reduction in brain volume are at greatest risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Study participants ages 65 and over with B-12 deficiencies not only had the smallest brains, but performed poorly on tests measuring thinking, reasoning and memory.
Although the study doesn’t prove that vitamin-B₁₂ deficiency caused these problems, it does back up a study published in 2008 by researchers at Oxford University that found that older people who took B₁₂, B₆ and folate supplements showed less brain shrinkage when compared with older people who did not take supplements.
The supplements also appeared to slow cognitive decline in patients with memory problems.
When indicated, your doctor will order blood levels for methylmalonate, cystathionine and homocysteine, which can indicate vitamin B₁₂ deficiency.
While scientists say it’s too early to recommend vitamin-B₁₂ supplements as part of a global preventative strategy for preserving memory and brain size, we do know that low levels of vitamin B₁₂ are associated with high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that, at elevated levels, may play a role in age-related mental decline and dementia.
Increasing your intake of vitamin B₁₂ may lower homocysteine levels.
Researchers also studied B₆ and folic acid intake in people ages 65 or older who showed no signs of dementia. They found that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future was 50% lower among people with the highest folic acid intake.
Maintain an adequate vitamin B₁₂ intake. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 2.4 mcg per day. You can meet the RDA by consuming foods high in vitamin B₁₂ (meat, poultry, shellfish, fish, eggs and dairy products), eating foods with added B₁₂ (such as fortified cereals) or taking a supplement containing B₁₂. Supplements are safe and inexpensive.
- Eat food rich in vitamin B₆. The RDA for vitamin B₆ is 1.5 mg for women over age 50. The RDA is 1.3 mg for adults ages 19 to 50. Good sources of vitamin B₆ include fish, meat, poultry and bananas.
- Get plenty of folic acid every day. The RDA for this vitamin is 400 micrograms (mcg). Good sources include enriched breads and cereals, peas and beans, oranges, orange juice, green vegetables and whole grains. If you take a folic acid supplement, you should also take 1 mcg of vitamin B₁₂ daily.
Johns Hopkins Medicine – The Johns Hopkins Bulletins – Memory Disorders, Winter 2011 National Institute of Health