5 Vitamins that Help with Memory
As we age, memory loss becomes a larger concern. Many of us already frequently forget where we put things before age even has a chance to degrade our memory. Vitamins are vital substances that the body needs in order to function. Some of these vitamins play important roles in the functioning of our brains. It makes sense then, that ensuring we get the proper amount of these vitamins would provide some benefit to our brain health and perhaps help us retain our memory a bit longer. In this post, we'll take a look at 5 vitamins that help with memory and play a role in brain function. Then we'll take a look at a few other supplements that are also known to benefit memory.
1. Vitamin B
This entry is a bit of a cheat, as there are multiple B vitamins. The B vitamins are some of the most common vitamins that help with memory. Thankfully, although the B vitamins are not chemically related, they are often found in the same foods, hence the grouping. Eating foods high in B vitamins will boost your energy levels and help with cell metabolism. For the brain and nervous system, B vitamins help to create the neurotransmitters that pass signals between nerves.
Each of the B vitamins plays such an important role in brain function they have their own mechanism within the brain for being carried across the blood-brain barrier. The brain keeps higher concentrations of the vitamin than any other organ in the body. This may be in part due to the fact that the brain represents 2% of the body's mass but 20% of its energy expenditure. B vitamins also play a vital role and producing energy for the body.
Many foods are high in B vitamins, most notably foods that are also high in protein such as meats and beans. It should be noted that B12 is only available in animal proteins, so supplements may be warranted for people who do not eat much meat. Since B vitamin storage reduces with age, older people also benefit from additional B vitamin substitution. B vitamins are water-soluble and are excreted through the urine daily, meaning that there is little danger of consuming too much of them.
2. Vitamin C
Like the B family, vitamin C concentrations in the brain are much higher than in other parts of the body. As your brain is burning all of the glucose that it needs to meet its enormous energy needs, vitamin C's antioxidant properties are keeping stray oxygen particles from doing damage. Also, like the B vitamins, C plays a crucial role in the creation of the neurotransmitters that your brain uses to communicate. The vitamin's role in brain health is so profound that researchers discovered those with high concentrations of it in the brain suffered less cognitive impairment than those with lower doses.
Are these vitamins that help with memory specifically? In a study directly related to memory, scientists found that aged rats given high doses of vitamin C, along with vitamin E, had reduced memory deficiency. The same benefit did not occur in younger rats, suggesting that maybe the two vitamins work together to reverse some of the effects of aging on one's memory retention abilities.
Vitamin C can be found in broccoli, tomatoes, and several fruits and melons. The vitamin is generally safe to take in supplement form., but overdoing it can result in nausea, vomiting, and heartburn. Regardless of whether you experience any of those symptoms, you should keep your consumption of the vitamin to under 2000 mg per day.
3. Vitamin E
We've already touched on vitamin E in the previous section when we talked about its use with vitamin C in a study on the two vitamins' effect on the memory retention of aged rats. Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant and in that regard functions similarly in the brain. In addition, it has been shown that those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease have lower levels of vitamin E in their cerebrospinal fluid that the average person does. Because oxidation can destroy neurons it is believed that vitamin E can help alleviate some of those symptoms. Studies have been mixed, but largely support the conclusion that the vitamin helps Alzheimer's patients.
Vitamin E consists of several components. Two of the main components are alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol. It is believed that gamma-tocopherol is the one that has the most brain benefits, but most commercial vitamin E supplements use alpha-tocopherol. For this reason, you should try to get the bulk of your vitamin E intake from food, which tends to be higher in the gamma-tocopherol component. The richest dietary sources of the vitamin are nuts and seeds.
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is best known for its role in preventing hardened arteries and helping blood to coagulate. Its benefits go beyond regulating the consistency of your blood and one of the other areas it covers is the regulation of calcium. Most people are aware of the importance that calcium plays in bone health, but many are not aware of calcium's role in the brain. Vitamin K is actually one of the vitamins that help with memory. Poorly regulated calcium in the brain causes some of the damage that Alzheimer's does to the organ. In fact, in a study of the dietary habits of people with early stages of the disease, patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's were found to consume less vitamin K than the patients who did not have the disease.
High amounts of vitamin K are found in vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and asparagus as well as legumes such as green beans. You can also find it in liver and some fruits, though in lesser amounts. The vitamin is safe in the levels that are commonly used in supplements and obtainable through dietary means, though, as with anything, one shouldn't exceed the recommended dosage on your supplement bottle.
This entry is also cheating a bit as Omega-3 fatty acids are not technically vitamins. They are, however, a common part of most people's diets and play vital roles in the function of brain health. As this puts them in a vitamin-adjacent category, we've included them in our list. The brain uses fatty acids to build the cell walls of the neurons that power it. Because our bodies are not very good at doing this on their own, they rely on the extra dietary intake of these acids to perform their job efficiently.
Omega-3 fatty acids are predominately found in fish such as salmon, canola oil, seeds such as flax and hemp seeds, as well as in walnuts and kiwi. If you do not feel that you can get enough omega-3 from your diet, the fatty acids are also found in supplement form. Some of these supplements may specifically be labeled Omega-3, but the most common supplement for obtaining them is fish oil capsules. The recommended dosage of omega-3 tends to require more capsules than other supplements do, so keep that in mind when making your purchase.
Other Memory-Supporting Supplements
So what are some other supplements or vitamins that help with memory? Other than vitamins and common dietary items, there are some supplements that can help with brain function. These are substances that you will not find significant amounts of in an average diet. The only way to take advantage of their unique benefits is through supplementation. A full list would require a post of its own, but three of the big ones are listed below.
- Ginkgo Biloba - This common ingredient in Chinese medicine dating back 1000s of years is known to increase blood flow and help carry more nutrients through the blood vessels. It also joins Vitamins C and E as a powerful antioxidant that will help stave off the damaging effects of stray oxygen particles on the brain. It has been proven effective in reducing the symptoms of dementia in people that suffer from it.
- Huperzine A - Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter in your brain. A naturally occurring enzyme called acetylcholinesterase breaks down this neurotransmitter. By blocking acetylcholinesterase, Huperzine A has shown to be effective at increasing mental functioning not just in people suffering from dementia, but in perfectly healthy teenagers when taken regularly for as little as a month.
- DMAE - Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain. It contains a choline molecule but passes the blood-brain barrier more easily than pure choline. Once past the barrier, it is acted on by an enzyme and converted to choline. Since choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, this is a more direct approach to getting your brain the choline it needs for building that important neurotransmitter.