As you age, you may face a disturbing amount of memory problems like your short-term memory subsides, your thinking abilities decline, or the development of memory conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. What if we told you some vitamins could boost your memory? Several vitamins, omega-three fatty acids, and herbal supplements can help boost your memory and prevent diseases that cause significant damage to your brain and memory. Keep reading and learn about these natural vitamins for memory loss.
The B vitamin complex contains eight vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12), all of which play a significant role in promoting a healthy brain. The B vitamins move across the blood-brain barrier and the choroid plexus through dedicated transport mechanisms to uptake several functions in the brain (3).
Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, And B7
Thiamine (B1), a coenzyme in the catabolism of sugars and amino acids, is an essential co-factor in synthesizing fatty acids, neurotransmitters, and other bioactive compounds necessary for brain function (12). Riboflavin (B2) contains two flavoproteins, co-factors in the metabolism of essential fatty acids in brain lipids (3). Niacin (B3, pantothenic acid (B5), and Biotin (B7), ensure oxidative metabolism and contribute to the structure and function of brain cells. While these five B vitamins have no direct relation to memory, they are essential to brain function.
Hence, deficiencies in each of these vitamins can lead to poor neuro health and cognitive performance altogether.
Vitamins B6, B9, And B12
The best vitamins for memory loss in the B vitamin complex are B6, B9, and B12. They’re all co-factors in the homocysteine metabolism that enhance the brain’s cognitive function, including memory (3).
Vitamin B6 is present in three forms; pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine; each is a coenzyme in the homocysteine metabolism. Vitamin B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin) help with the methylation of homocysteine to methionine (3).
Some studies reveal that vitamins B6, B9, and B12 have a consistent relationship with brain function. Therefore, intake of these vitamin supplements may decrease homocysteine levels in the brain, leading to improved cognitive function, attenuated cognitive decline, and possibly reduced risk of dementia (9).
Theoretically, when there are deficiencies in vitamins B6, B9, or B12, it leads to elevated homocysteine levels, which can increase your risk of dementia. Therefore, the opposite should be true; with increased intake of these vitamins to correct a deficiency, there should be a decrease in homocysteine levels in the brain.
Another study on rats revealed that vitamin B12 is present in the synthesis of myelin, and it demonstrates the ability to promote regeneration of myelin fibers in the body (13). Myelin is a fatty acid that adds a layer of insulation in the brain’s nerves providing nerve insulation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the brain region crucial for forming long long-term memories. When myelin is absent, brain communication is stifled, and there’s decreased myelin formation, hence affecting memory.
The study on rats revealed that vitamin B12 could promote the regeneration of the myelin fibers after injury, improving nerve insulation.
Although not all the B vitamins are vitamins good for memory loss nor food for concentration, an adequate intake of B vitamins is essential for proper brain function. In addition, the three vitamins, B6, B9, and B12, will aid with homocysteine metabolism, which improves brain function further, so increase your intake of these vitamins for memory loss and concentration.
The best brain foods with these vitamins include eggs, beef, liver and organ meats, dark leafy vegetables, milk, legumes, and seafood.
Read More: 13 Essential Vitamins: A Comprehensive Guide
Vitamin E is a derivative of tocopherol and tocotrienol, which are fat-soluble antioxidants that can pass the blood-brain barrier and exert antioxidant effects into the brain’s cell membranes. As antioxidants, they help reduce and prevent oxidative stress, helping to prevent the development of dementia (4).
Several studies reveal that people who take supplements with vitamins E and C, are less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who didn’t take these vitamins (10). Additionally, the studies suggest that vitamin E supplementation may be a good treatment option for older adults with mild cognitive impairment with an elevated risk of dementia.
While vitamin E supplementation was influential in the delayed progression of cognitive decline in adults with Alzheimer’s disease, the supplementation carries some risk (4). It may be safer to instead increase intake of vitamin E-rich foods. Vitamin E-rich examples of food for brain fog include nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, pumpkin, bell pepper, collard greens, and beet greens.
Vitamins A And C
Vitamins A and C also have antioxidants that enhance and prevent cognitive decline and dementia (4). Vitamin A refers to retinoids, provitamin carotenoids, beta-carotene, retinol, retinoic acid, or bioactive oxidative compounds called retinaldehyde. Meanwhile, vitamin C is ascorbic acid or its bioactive compound, dehydroascorbic acid.
Studies reveal that to achieve a significant benefit on cognitive performance, the user should preferably intake the vitamins over long-term use rather than short-term (2). However, the epidemiological studies have no consistent and sufficient evidence to ascertain that either vitamin can protect against cognitive decline and impairment (4).
Again, high levels of these vitamins present potential toxicity wherein high doses of beta-carotene can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer or may have several manifestations such as bone demineralization. At the same time, high doses of vitamin C doses can lead to glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (4). The good news is that high or toxic doses of these vitamins typically only come from supplements, so increasing your intake of foods high in vitamins A and C may give you the benefits without the downside. Yellow, red, and green fruits and vegetables tend to contain carotenoids and vitamin C, while animal products such as dairy, oily fish, eggs, and liver are good sources of preformed vitamin A (retinoids).
The last vitamins for concentration are vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is a secosteroid hormone with effects targeted to bone and non-bone health. However, vitamin D binds vitamin receptors in the human cortex and the hippocampus in the brain, which are the critical areas for cognition (6). Vitamin D mat exert antineutrino-degenerative action through neurotrophic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and anti-ischemic properties (14).
Several studies reveal that there may be a causal relationship between vitamin D supplementation or dietary intake and cognitive performance regarding enhancing cognition and preventing cognitive decline and dementia. However, the evidence is also inconsistent and inconclusive (4). Your body can make vitamin D on its own when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but you can also get vitamin D from oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified foods (milk is a common example in some countries).
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Other Brain Foods
Now that we’ve looked at what vitamins help with memory, let’s jump into the minerals, fats, and herbals excellent for memory loss and concentration.
Magnesium And Zinc
Magnesium and zinc are essential for many body functions, but we shall primarily look at the brain. According to Psychology Today, magnesium deficiency can result in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but it can also affect mood, cause depression, and affect memory. Therefore, oral intake of magnesium may result in rapid recovery from depression and alleviate anxiety and short-term memory loss, if a magnesium deficiency was the cause of your symptoms.
Zinc is an essential mineral for brain function and offers anti-inflammatory effects in the brain via cytokines. Zinc has neuroprotective effects in the neurogenesis of the hippocampal necessary for long-term memory and modulates actions in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (8).
Phospholipids: Phosphatidylserine & Phosphatidylcholine
The brain has fatty acids and phospholipids that support brain function. It has been suggested that taking phospholipid supplementation can enhance the component structure in the neuronal membranes by improving signal transduction, cell-to-cell communication, and cell growth regulation, leading to improved cognitive function. It may also help prevent cognitive decline by protecting the cell membranes and accelerating phospholipid resynthesis (4).
A review of studies on a precursor to phosphatidylcholine taken at 600–1000 mg daily suggested an improvement in the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral status in older patients with cognitive impairment or dementia. Therefore, these results suggest that phospholipids positively affect memory and behavior (5). Choline can be obtained in the diet from animal foods, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Lastly, Ginseng, which is a herbal supplement, also shows potential regarding improved cognitive performance. It contains ginsenosides that are active compounds, which may attenuate β-amyloid-induced toxicity and may have an antioxidative effect essential in treating Alzheimer’s disease (7).
Ashwagandha, the Indian Ginseng, is also said to promote concentration, intellect, and memory, especially for children with memory deficits, people of old age, and those suffering from head trauma and injuries (1).
Multiple studies on ashwagandha reveal that it may stop, slow, reverse, or remove neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss, treating various diseases, including Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, among other neurodegenerative conditions, at any stage of the disease. The roots precisely feature Glycowithanolides withaferin- A and sitoindosides VII–X, which may reverse the cognitive defects of Alzheimer’s disease (1).
There are five main vitamins for memory loss: B vitamin complex, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin A and C. However, there are also omega-three fatty acids, herbs like Ginseng, minerals like magnesium and zinc, and phospholipids, all of which play a crucial role in brain function, precisely memory.
Ensure you include each of these vitamins, minerals, fats, and possibly herbal supplements in your diet to improve your memory and cognitive performance altogether.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for the diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- An overview of ashwagandha (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- A randomized trial of beta carotene supplementation and cognitive function in men (2007, pubmed.nih.gov)
- B Vitamins and the brain (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Common dietary supplements for cognitive health (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Cytidinediphosphocholine (CDP-choline) for cognitive and behavioral disturbances associated with chronic cerebral disorders in the elderly (2005, pubmed.nih.gov)
- Dietary intake of vitamin D and cognition in older women (2010, pubmed.nih.gov)
- Ginseng for cognition (2010, pubmed.nih.gov)
- Magnesium and zinc are essential for healthy brain function (2017, physchologytoday.com)
- Short-term folate, vitamin B-12, or vitamin B-6 supplementation slightly affects memory performance (2002, pubmed.nih.gov)
- Supplemental use of antioxidant vitamins and subsequent risk of cognitive decline and dementia (2005, pubmed.nih.gov)
- Vitamin B12 deficiency (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin B1 and Dementia (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin B complex and Vitamin B12 levels after peripheral injury ( 2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Vitamin D and cognitive performance in adults (2009, pubmed.nih.gov)