Ahh, to be young again. To have a body that didn’t ache like you were in a car crash when you rolled out of bed. To be able to stay up 24 hours straight without feeling like death warmed over. To eat pizza and and burgers with no concern for your ever-burgeoning waistline.
But alas, those days are gone, and as you’ve gracefully aged, you’ve noticed that your memory is beginning to fade a bit. Nothing alarming, you just can’t recall things as quickly as you used to. You can’t remember that particular Kansas song you used to love so much, and sometimes it takes you awhile to find your keys.
Is there any way to fight against this memory slide? To slow Father Time’s relentless onslaught against your fragile brain?
Thankfully, there is, and you don’t have to use any experimental treatments either. There are numerous vitamins which can naturally protect and support your memory, allowing you to get back some of the sharpness you once had.
In this post, we’re going to explore those vitamins that are best for keeping your brain function sharp.
Vitamin B12 is responsible for maintaining healthy nerve cells and and red blood cells, and a deficiency in the vitamin can actually result in memory loss. B12 also maintains correct levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood, and if homocysteine isn’t properly maintained, memory loss can occur.
A key passage in A Guide To Coping With Alzheimer’s Disease reads:
Dementia could be a symptom of pernicious anemia, a rare condition caused by low levels of vitamin B12. In people with pernicious anemia, the bone marrow produces red blood cells that are both larger and less numerous than normal.
Additionally, some studies suggest that a lack of B12 may be associated with increased risk of dementia, although the evidence isn’t conclusive on that issue.
Regardless, it’s clear that maintaining healthy levels of B12 is essential for a properly functioning memory.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can protect your brain from oxidative stress, which is caused by free radicals. As Dr Ananya Mandal writes:
Oxidative stress leads to many pathophysiological conditions in the body. Some of these include neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, gene mutations and cancers, chronic fatigue syndrome, fragile X syndrome, heart and blood vessel disorders, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack and inflammatory diseases.
Vitamin E serves as a shield, of sorts, for the nerves in your brain, enabling them to endure what might destroy them otherwise. You should use caution, however, when taking Vitamin E as it is possible to take too much and damage your body.
Omega-3 fatty acids can increase brain size, increase the speed of neural transfer, and increase your memory function. They can also repair damaged neural connections in the brain.
Scientists are having great success at reversing many of the fundamental age-related decreases in brain function correlated with omega-3 deficiency. ADHD and related conditions can be prevented or mitigated by supplementing infants and nursing mothers with DHA. Young rats supplemented with DHA show increased plasticity, or flexibility of function, in their developing brain cells, with highly invigorated development of synapses, the electrochemical junctions where nerve signals are relayed. In aged rats, omega-3 supplementation reverses age-related neuronal changes and maintains learning and memory performance that arise from powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Additionally, studies have suggested that high levels of Omega-3’s support a healthy response to Alzheimer’s.
Finally, new studies suggest that babies with the highest levels of Omega-3’s may do better in school and have fewer problems with concentration.
Vitamin B6 could be called the “happy vitamin” due to its ability to increase serotonin in the brain. If your serotonin levels fall too much, depression sets in, causing you to sink into a dark mood that can last for an extended period.
How does this relate to memory? If you don’t have enough serotonin, a memory may not properly move from short-term to long-term memory, causing you to forget what happened.
A small randomized controlled trial at Oxford found that taking vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid together can reduce brain atrophy, improve brain function, and reduce shrinkage in the brain by lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood. Speaking of using these vitamins to manage Alzheimer’s, the study said that, “...B-vitamin treatment reduces, by as much as seven fold, the cerebral atrophy in those gray matter (GM) regions specifically vulnerable to the AD process, including the medial temporal lobe.”
Now, keep in mind, this was a small study and the jury is still out on this research. But the results are promising and should be seen as an encouragement in the management of Alzheimer’s.
Folic acid is a key vitamin that aids in memory recall, and a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to difficulty remembering things. Additionally, folic acid maintains proper oxygen levels in your blood and produces healthy blood cells, and a drop in these levels often results in tiredness, distractedness, and moodiness.
But here’s the thing about folic acid: it is a water-soluble B-vitamin, which means any leftover amounts leave the body through the urine. Because folate is not stored in your body in large amounts, missing a single meal can cause your levels to fall. Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to bring them back to normal through food and supplements.
Vitamin C is another one of those nutrients that protects against oxidative stresses.
Speaking of vitamin C and folic acid, the Alzheimer’s Prevention Group writes:
If you’re serious about the prevention of Alzheimer's and improving memory loss, you should definitely take a high potency multiple vitamin and mineral capsule. Be sure the vitamin formula you choose contains folic acid and vitamin C. Folic acid reduces homocysteine levels—high homocysteine levels put you at risk for both heart disease and memory loss
Additionally, vitamin C is critical in the absorption of iron, which is directly linked to memory function.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is crucial for fighting cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Numerous studies have confirmed the role of vitamin D in mental health. R. Douglas Shytle Ph.D., and Paula . Bickford Ph.D. wrote:
A recent review of the research on vitamin D deficiency and mental disorders by Paul Cherniack’s group at the University of Miami found five studies reporting an association between HVD [insufficient vitamin D] and dementia, four studies linking it to mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder and four studies linking it to schizophrenia.
Unfortunately, many adults (especially the elderly), don’t have sufficient vitamin D in their bodies. This is mostly due to the fact that our bodies must acquire vitamin D through the foods we eat or through exposure to sunshine.
Vitamin K doesn’t get much press, but it’s still a powerful arsenal in your fight for memory. It boost the speed of brain functions and improves your ability to remember words. A deficiency of vitamin K is associated with Alzheimer’s.
Most people don’t naturally have a deficiency in vitamin K, but those who are taking anti-cholesterol medications (which is a lot of people) may. If you’ve taken a lot of antibiotics you also may have a deficiency due to vitamin K being produced in our intestines.
Although many people struggle with memory loss as they get older, you needn’t. By ensuring that you maintain proper levels of all the vitamins mentioned above, you can support your memory so that it stays in tip-top shape.
In the 2016 Memory World Championship, Simon Reinhard memorized 300 different words in just 15 minutes. And these guys had a memory duel over a freshly memorized deck of cards:
You may not be up to feats such as that, but you can certainly support and protect your memory with just a few changes.