Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (folate) and B12 contribute to many critical bodily processes. For example, the Mayo Clinic says vitamin B1 (thiamin) helps convert the nutrients you ingest into energy and is necessary for cell growth, development and function.
Cleveland Clinic doctor Irina Todorov notes that B6, B9 (folate), and B12 are linked to brain health because they help produce neurotransmitters that send messages between your brain and your body. According to a 2016 study in the journal Nutrientsthree key B vitamins can help break down homocysteine, which carries risks for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Most B vitamin intake should come from what you eat rather than supplements. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institute of Health (NIH) sheetsfood sources that contain B vitamins include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, beans, salmon, tuna, fortified breakfast cereals, lunch, etc.
When free radicals build up in body cells, it creates an imbalance with antioxidants, which can cause oxidative stress. A Article from the National Library of Medicine explains that continuous oxidative stress can damage cell membranes, lipids, proteins, DNA, etc.
During aging, the brain is particularly sensitive to oxidative stress which can damage the functions of the central nervous system. Research has linked it to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Additional research published in Nutrients shows that vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and helps protect cells and prevent oxidative stress. The scientific article notes several studies that show positive effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance, including improved memory functions.
Vitamin E also boosts your immune system and helps prevent blood clots. Excellent sources of vitamin E include nuts like almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts, as well as vegetable oil, spinach, broccoli, some breakfast cereals, and other fortified foods.
People often think of vitamin C as a natural remedy for the common cold. It also stimulates the immune system and produces healing collagen. Like vitamin E, vitamin C also promotes brain health by helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
A Free Radical Biological Medicine review Several studies looking at the effect of vitamin C (ascorbate) on the brain have found that ascorbate helps protect the brain from oxidative stress. The review authors referenced a study in which “cognitively intact” participants who had higher levels of vitamin C in their blood had higher cognitive ability.
In a 2019 Rush University Studyparticipants aged 58 to 98 who ate more strawberries and other vitamin C-rich foods at least once a week over a 20-year study period had a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C, including grapefruit, oranges, red and green peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes and cantaloupe. Vitamin C is best obtained from a well-balanced diet. It is also available at an additional cost.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats with multiple health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering blood pressure, lowering triglycerides and reducing inflammation. Your body cannot produce omega-3 essential fatty acids. So you have to get them from your diet. Two fatty acids from fish are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) come from plants.
Dr. Gad Marshall, associate medical director at the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explained that omega-3 supplements do not necessarily help improve brain function.
Instead, Marshall recommended eating more fish to get EPA, DHA, and ALA. Studies have linked high fish consumption to a lower risk of cognitive decline.
In a study published in Neurology, “lower levels of DHA and EPA in red blood cells (RBCs) in late middle age were associated with markers of accelerated structural and cognitive aging.” The researchers also noted that “the majority of studies published to date” show that increased fish consumption reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
Mayo Clinic suggests eat these types of fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, cod and herring will provide omega-3 fatty acids. Other food sources include nuts, green leafy vegetables, soybeans and soybean oil, and canola oil.
Overall, experts suggest that incorporating these vitamins into a well-balanced diet can have a positive effect on brain health as you age. Be sure to contact your doctor for medical advice before changing your diet or starting any dietary supplement.
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