Yes, there are proven brain vitamins to offset dementia in everyone!
Vitamin B’s in general
Each type of B vitamin offers a unique and necessary benefit to total brain function including concentration and memory. A well done landmark study which looked at the three types of vitamin B considered to be brain vitamins showed that B’s are indeed very important to your brain.
The study also shows low levels of folic acid (B9), vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 lead to a statistically significant increase in Alzheimer’s disease. B vitamins help the body convert carbohydrates into glucose, which is used to produce energy in the body and the brain.
All the B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning the body does not store them so you cannot “eat or supplement too much” as long as you do not have a genetic defect which interferes with how your body processes folate.
Let’s touch on that first.
Some people cannot absorb and utilize “regular folate.” MTHFR deficiency, due to a genetic defect, is present in approximately 17% of Americans. It’s a simple blood test, and a big hint is that your folate level is high. A very high folate level found on lab testing if you are not on folate supplementation is suggestive of inability of your body to utilize regular folate.
This can cause a whole set of problems that is too vast for this article. However, I went into this in detail in the article discussion folate vs. 5-MTHF supplements. There you go!
Folate is in a variety of foods. A great folic acid source includes fruits, especially oranges, papayas, and strawberries. Vegetables which are rich in folate include broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, turnip greens, and romaine lettuce.
Beets are also rich in folate and nitric oxide. Legumes such as lentils, garbanzo beans, navy beans pinto beans and kidney beans are also high in folate. Grains are high in folate, but most are also high in gluten. If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know I’m not a gluten fan.
Folate or folic acid is one of the well-known brain vitamins.
It can improve memory, alertness, and concentration. Folate is crucial for the production of messaging molecules that are used by nerves to send signals throughout out body.
Recent studies reveal that folate has an important role in the production of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) as well. In what is called the BH4 Cycle (tetrahydrobiopterin cycle), researchers have verified an intimate connection between the production of multiple neurotransmitters and levels of folate.
Most importantly, the two main brain chemicals associated with folate are also brain chemicals needed for memory consolidation, storage, and mood. These neurotransmitters are serotonin and dopamine. Biochemically this is what it looks like. For example-(we’ll take the easy example)- BH4 is needed to convert the amino acid phenylalanine into tyrosine. Tyrosine is then a building block for dopamine.
There are also possible connections between two other neurotransmitters known as the relaxation and excitation brain chemicals. These neurotransmitters are GABA and glutamic acid. Folate is innately connected to the “proper balance” of these chemicals. Glutamate is excitatory while GABA is calming. You need the proper balance of these two for help falling asleep, as one prime example.
Vitamin B6 is another important brain vitamin:
These are important brain chemicals because one needs them for proper sleep, immune health, and brain health.
Don’t forget that they are necessary for memory consolidation and storage. These are the two biggies to always keep track of.
Foods that are rich in one of our brain vitamins, B6, include cranberries, cauliflower, garlic, kale, bell peppers and tuna.
First of all, let’s clarify what form of Vitamin B12 is healthy. Cyanocobalamin is the most common form of supplemental vitamin B12. Why? Because it’s is cheap. This form of vitamin B12 does not actually occur naturally either in plant nor animal tissues.
Cyanocobalamin is the chemically synthesized form of B12 found in most B vitamin and even vitamin B12 supplements. It does not exist naturally. As the name implies, cyanocobalamin does actually contain a cyanide molecule.
Although the amount of cyanide in a normal B12 supplement is tiny, your body still has to eliminate this compound. This removal is accomplished through your detoxification systems with the powerful intra-cellular antioxidant glutathione being very important for the elimination of the cyanide molecule. Remember this.
Methylcobalamin is the best type of Vitamin B12 that is one of the real brain vitamins.
Methylcobalamin is used primarily in your liver, brain and nervous system.
Since this article is about the brain I’ll go into that in more detail. Just know that your supplements should NOT contain B12 in any form other than methylcobalamin.
B12 and the Brain’s Health:
B12 supports the production of myelin which is the covering or sheath protecting nerves, allowing nerve impulses to occur. When you are B12-deficient, you can have symptoms which mimic diseases such as dementia, multiple sclerosis, impaired sensation and gait.
Vitamin B12 is required for concentration and all cognitive processes, so a vitamin B12 deficiency can result in actual dementia. If caught in time, it’s a reversible form of dementia. B12 is likely the best of the brain health vitamins if you were to ask me to choose one. I might tie it with vitamin D as the two best brain health vitamins. See what you think. This one increases mental acuity and improves memory. It’s one of the first supplements you should add if you are experiencing short term memory loss.
Who is at risk for having a vitamin B12 deficiency?
Few patients ever are informed of this. I bet you didn’t know if you’re taking it, did you?
Older adults with out-of-whack digestion are one of the most susceptible populations.
This is because older people produce less stomach acid needed to digest vitamin B12 properly.
Lastly, since animal foods are the best sources of vitamin B12, vegans will also have deficiencies.
Glutathione is the most important inter-cellular antioxidant. Your body makes it own when you are young. However, your ability to make your own glutathione goes down 1% per year after age 20. So, by the time you are about 50 years old, you will benefit from a sub-lingual or spray glutathione as oral sources are destroyed by stomach acid.
Researchers have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have low levels of glutathione in the hippocampal (memory) regions of the brain.
Research also indicates that low glutathione levels are associated with a more rapid progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
It (low glutathione) is currently considered to be a potential diagnostic marker for Alzheimer’s.
I don’t know about you, but this is enough to make me recommend and take glutathione supplementation.
A good, strong glutathione spray also makes it to my list of necessary brain vitamins for optimal cognition for life.
As you might predict, it can also protect your brain from free radical damage, too.
These brain vitamins in foods such as broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit, and oranges.
Research suggests that vitamin C might be protective against Alzheimer’s disease.
Natural Vitamin E:
They are important anti-oxidants which battle free radicals by working with Vitamin A derivatives called carotenoids as well as with Vitamin C.
Natural (not synthetic) vitamin E reduces free radical damage within the brain and has been shown to delay or possibly help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Foods that contain vitamin E include green leafy vegetables, hazelnuts, and almonds. Supplements should be natural, not synthetic which might be harmful, not helpful to the body and especially, the heart.
If you follow my blog you will note several articles which cite the well known link between depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Remember the topic memory “consolidation and storage” during our folate discussion above? Recall that two “happy neurotransmitters” which are low in depression, are responsible for a good chunk of memory consolidation and storage.
In fact, the “memory storage area” in the brain called the hippocampus tends to be smaller in those with long histories of depression. Dementia patients can experience co-existing depression.
A diagnosis of depression versus dementia is sometimes difficult to make in some older individuals. The bottom line is depression, and early MCI (mild cognitive impairment) are treatable so get help right now if this is you. This is one of my specialties so feel free to contact me.
Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), is a neural protein that improves overall brain and nervous system functioning. BDNF influences many functions.
These include the growth of new neurons and synapses (neural connections), prevention of death of existing brain cells, and overall cognitive functioning. BDNF is the most important neurotrophin circulating within the brain.
When BDNF levels decrease, it increases the chance of Alzheimer’s. No doubt. To find other ways to increase BDNF please find the article link above on brain health. Due to the variety of methods Vitamin D uses to amp up your brain I always include it in my list of best brain supplements.
Sunlight vs Supplemental Vitamin D:
Exposure to sunlight in our modern world is decreasing with indoor work and sunblock lotions. We are therefore getting less vitamin D in our bodies from the sun.
However, you will put your skin in harm’s way to get enough sun exposure to raise your Vitamin D level to what we deem adequate (50-55 ng/ml).
As an Anti-aging doctor in Florida (of all places!), I rarely find a patient who does not need Vitamin D supplementation.
We all like to think that “sun is enough,” but for most people, it just isn’t.
Most people require a good 3000-6000 IU of Vitamin D daily to meet all of the body’s health requirements and stimulate BDNF sufficiently.
This is yet another reason to normalize your vitamin D levels. In addition, another reason for me to rank vitamin D as tied with B12 for best of the brain vitamins.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids in many studies prove to benefit your heart, but they are now showing a definite benefit for cognitive health, too. In one study in mice, the mice given omega 3’s rich in DHA had better object recognition, memory, and adverse response retention. Althought they are not brain vitamins per se people think of fish oils as vitamins which is why I include them here.
Chia seeds and flax seed oil have less but are still alternative sources.
“Wild caught” fish usually have higher mercury levels, so “buyer beware.”
Beware of mercury in over-the-counter fish oils too! You’re safe if you get a product with a GMP sticker-label.
It protects the brain from neurotoxins. Foods that are rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark leafy greens.
Since up to 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient and it contributes to insomnia, pain and more I recommend supplementation for all.
It is also an important part of natural stress relief. It is one of the minerals always deficient in those with fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue. Also, it is one of the important adrenal fatigue supplements as well as an essential pain-relieving mineral for those with fibromyalgia.
Note the only form of magnesium which passes the blood brain barrier able to then protect the brain is magnesium threonate, our Mag-CNS.
This mineral is powerful enough to be on my list of vital brain vitamins. For those people with sleep induction insomnia, it reverses the excitatory glutamate to the calming GABA ratio making it the best natural sleeping aid for some people as well. In addition, remember good sleep is crucial for good brain health.
There are the “brain vitamins, ” but there is more you can do to keep your noggin tip top. We can now prevent most cases of Alzheimer’s disease. If you have a first-degree relative with this disease or otherwise have a concern about brain health, please be in touch.