Brain fog, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, depression, anxiety, and addictions are all brain-related issues. If you lose your keys, glasses, or phone more than you’d like to admit, or you need to write everything down to remember – you may want to read on…
Did you know that the human brain uses more energy than any other organ in the body? While the brain represents only 2% of total body weight, it accounts for more than 20% of the body’s total energy expenditure.
When considering nutrients that support brain health, it is important to understand that the brain is like a sponge soaking up what it can to remain active – like nutrients from food and dietary supplements. This is why it is so important to eat a healthy whole foods diet to support brain health. Fortunately, there are many key vitamins that can help you maintain, and even enhance your brain function.
Addressing deficiency with the best vitamins for brain health
Like many patients, you too may be interested in supporting brain function from a cognitive and mental health standpoint. After all, the brain never takes a break, it works round the clock. Explore the vitamins that support this strong and active organ.
Vitamin B is for Brain
When it comes to B vitamins, you could say that the B stands for the brain. As it turns out, the best vitamins for brain health are B vitamins. Vitamin B12, in particular, is one of the best vitamins for brain health. In fact, research has confirmed that there is a direct correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency and poor brain health. (2) One connection between the B vitamins and brain health is with homocysteine. It is widely known that high homocysteine levels can contribute to poor health, which includes poor brain function as well as a greater risk of stroke. (3) It is also scientifically accepted that B vitamins help keep homocysteine levels in check.
Geeky Side Note:
The B vitamins that participate in one-carbon metabolism include folate, vitamin B12, and B6; deficiency or congenital defects in enzymes involved in the metabolism of these B vitamins are associated with impairment in brain function. (4)
In addition to their role in homocysteine metabolism, B vitamins are intimately involved in energy production in the cells. The B vitamins are also known to easily cross the blood-brain barrier. Once in the brain, they are distributed precisely their levels are tightly regulated by multiple homeostatic mechanisms in the brain. (5)
Vitamin C is for Cognitive Performance
In addition to the B vitamins, Vitamin C can also help support brain health because of its high anti-oxidant activity.) According to a 2014 paper published in the journal Nutrients, “Increasing evidence is pointing to vitamin C as an important redox homeostatic factor in the central nervous system, linking an inadequate dietary supply of vitamin C to negative effects on cognitive performance.” (7) This is especially true with aging adults as vitamin C deficiency is more common among older persons.
Vitamin E for Efficiency
Vitamin E has a mechanism similar to vitamin C and brain health because it too is a powerful anti-oxidant. Also similar to vitamin C, research demonstrates that low vitamin E levels can contribute to poor brain function and less efficient completion of tasks. (8) Preliminary animal studies also suggest that vitamin E supplementation can have a protective effect on brain function. (9)
Vitamin K is for Sphingolipids
Okay, so Sphingolipids doesn’t start with K, but it’s such a fun word.
When we think of Vitamin K we typically think of strong bones, but we should also be thinking about brain health. Regarding brain function, studies have shown that Vitamin K influences sphingolipids, which are fatty acid compounds in brain cell membranes. (10) To determine the association between Vitamin K status and brain function, researchers evaluated 192 people equal to or older than 65 years. This was known as the CLIP study and the researchers concluded, “The main finding of this cross-sectional study is that, irrespective of all measured potential confounders, increased dietary phylloquinone intake was associated with better cognition and behavior among geriatric patients.” (11)
It’s important to note that some common drugs can cause deficiencies in B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K.
Summary – Here are your best brain-building Vitamins: B, C, E, and K!!
Consider lifestyle factors for brain health
These foundational vitamins—Bs, C, E, and K—can help support health on many levels, including brain function. But when it comes to maintaining, enhancing, and protecting brain health, it’s also important to remember these three basic and critical lifestyle factors:
Research shows that exercise doesn’t just help your body stay fit, it helps your brain too. There are many brain-boosting benefits from exercise, including enhanced memory and cognition.
Getting enough sleep is critical to health in general but it’s also important to brain health. While the body sleeps, the glymphatic system kicks in to start detoxifying the brain of neurotoxic waste proteins such as β-amyloid. (12)
The research is clear: a whole-food, unprocessed diet that includes plenty of healthy fats is good for the brain. Omega 3 fats walnuts, avocados, proteins, and magnesium are all super beneficial for brain health.
The basics of a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise will go far. However, understanding the best way to eat, sleep, supplement, and move based on your own unique DNA can be a true game-changing in fast-tracking the results of your health and lifestyle plan. If you’d like to get a bit more precise into what your body needs most, I’d love to help you do that. I recommend checking out DNA Made Simple.
The bottom line
Protecting and enhancing brain function is important to all of us. With Dementia and Alzheimers on the rise, along with hormone and toxin-related brain fog so common, it is important to really dive into these basic, yet powerful tools to boost your brain health, function, and performance.
- Raichle ME. Two views of brain function. Trends in Cognitive Science. 2010;14:180-190.
- Health Quality Ontario. Vitamin B12 and cognitive function. Ontario Health Technology Assessment Series. 2013;13(23):1-45.
- Ford AH, Garrido GJ, Beer C, et al. Homocysteine, grey matter and cognitive function in adults with cardiovascular disease. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(3).
- Rosenberg IH. B vitamins, homocysteine and neurocognitive function. Nutrition Reviews. 2001;59(8):S69-S74.
- Kennedy DO. B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients;2016;8(2):68.
- Travica N, Ried K, Sali A, et al. Vitamin C status on cognitive function: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(9):960.
- Hansen S, Tveden-Nyborg P, Lykkesfeldt J. Does vitamin C deficiency affect cognitive development and function? Nutrients. 2014;6(9):3818-3846.
- Mangialasche F, XuW, Kivipelto M, et al. Tocopherols and tocotrienols plasma levels are associated with cognitive impairment. Neurobiological Aging. 2012;33(10):2282-90.
- La Fata G, van Vliet N, Barnhoorn S, et al. Vitamin E supplementation reduces cellular loss in the brain of a premature aging mouse model. The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2017;Aug 8.
- Ferland G. Vitamin K, an emerging nutrient in brain function. Biofactors. 2012;38(2):151-7.
- Chouet J, Ferland G, Feart C, et al. Dietary vitamin K intake is associated with cognition and behavior among geriatric patients: The CLIP study. Nutrients. 2015;7(8):6739-6750.
- Shokri-Kojori E, Wang G, Wiers CE, et al. β-amyloid accumulation in the human brain after one night of sleep deprivation. PNAS. 2018;115(17):4483-4488.