Vitamins for memory: 4 supplements

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  • Vitamin B12 is crucial for memory, so if you’re low on it, you could be forgetful.
  • Vitamin D deficiency could also put you at risk for memory problems like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.

Memory issues may be more common than you think, with one in nine adults over 45 suffering from some form of confusion or memory loss.

Perhaps to combat this, a 2021 survey found that 21% of adults over 50 take at least one supplement to support their brain, especially to boost memory.

Memory problems can affect your quality of life and, in some cases, can progress to something more serious, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are four supplements that may possibly have memory benefits, along with other ways to improve your memory.

1. Vitamin B12

B vitamins are crucial for brain health because they “help create the neurochemicals that allow brain cells to communicate with each other,” explains Dr Ayesha Sherzaia neurologist with Loma Linda University Health.

Vitamin B12, in particular, is important for memory. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to cognitive effects like confusion or poor memory, and even dementia in severe cases.

In fact, a 2020 study patients with vitamin B12 deficiency and cognitive impairment found that 84% of participants who took vitamin B12 supplements showed improvement in symptoms such as concentration and memory decline.

However, if you are not deficient in vitamin B12, supplementation with B vitamins probably won’t make any difference in improving your memory, says Sherzai.

2. Vitamin D

Sherzai says vitamin D is a hormone precursor, which means it’s a key building block for the creation of hormones, including the hormones responsible for communication between brain cells.

Therefore, not consuming enough vitamin D may increase the risk of memory problems.

For example, one study found that people with vitamin D deficiency were much more likely to be at risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Therefore, getting enough vitamin D may reduce your risk of dementia if, like 40% of Americans, you are vitamin D deficient.

Additionally, people with multiple sclerosis (MS) who lack vitamin D and who have cognitive impairment may benefit from supplementation.

A study found that people with MS who lacked vitamin D experienced improved memory after three months of vitamin D supplementation.

3. Vitamin E

Over time, free radical damage can affect your brain, causing cognitive decline.

But consuming antioxidants like vitamin E may counter some free radical damage, says Dr. David A. Merrill, a psychiatrist and the director of Pacific Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John Health Center.

Thus, vitamin E could help prevent certain cognitive deficits, such as Alzheimer’s disease, as demonstrated by the following studies:

  • A review revealed that high levels of vitamin E in the blood are linked to higher cognitive performance and that the vitamin may play a role in delaying or preventing cognitive decline related to general aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A mild to moderate study Patients with Alzheimer’s disease found that compared to a control group, those who took 2,000 IU of vitamin E daily for two years saw 19% slower disease progression.

Additionally, Merrill says that not all vitamin E studies have been so positive, so researchers still don’t know exactly how effective vitamin E is for brain health.

4. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) play a role in brain health, Merrill says. Deficiencies in EPA and DHA are linked to neurodegenerative disorders.

EPA and DHA fight inflammation in the brain, Sherzai says. They can also help strengthen connections between brain cells and help create neurochemicals, she says.

A study found that omega-3 supplementationespecially with alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) supplementation over 12 months slowed cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

However, a review found that omega-3 supplementation may only be beneficial when someone is in the early stages of cognitive impairment, so it may be useful as a potential treatment, but not necessarily as a preventative measure.

Other ways to improve memory

It’s not ideal to rely on vitamins for memory and brain health:

“Supplements, as the name suggests, should be complementary. They shouldn’t be essential for people trying to take care of themselves. [and] improve their memory performance,” says Merrill.

Also, while supplements may have some benefits, research is still mixed on how much these vitamins can actually help, and no single vitamin is a silver bullet, Merrill says. Not to mention that supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

Rather than just relying on vitamins that may or may not work, Sherzai says a better approach to improving your memory and preventing cognitive decline is to adopt an overall healthier lifestyle.

She suggests following the Acronym “NEURO” Which means:

Insider’s Takeaways

Ultimately, while there is promising research on certain vitamins and memory, the research is mixed and there isn’t enough definitive data to say for sure that vitamins can improve memory.

However, it’s possible that B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids can benefit memory, especially if you’re deficient in them. Ultimately, we need more long-term, large-scale studies to determine the true effectiveness of these supplements.

Focus on maintaining a healthier lifestyle and follow the acronym “NEURO” to improve your health and memory.

If you decide to try vitamins or supplements for your cognitive function, discuss them first with your doctor to determine the best course of action and make sure there are no contraindications with the medications or supplements you are currently taking.

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