Memory loss can manifest itself as a progressive disorder with a spectrum ranging from inconvenient to severe. Are you forgetting seemingly insignificant things, like the name of someone you went to high school with many years ago? Perhaps forgetting where you put your car keys is becoming a frequent annoyance. Do you have a friend or family member who was recently diagnosed with dementia and has difficulty remembering who you are? Read on to learn which vitamins help memory loss.
Vitamins are generally most effective for improving minor memory disturbances and can potentially stabilize or even enhance your thought processes. All concerning memory problems should be properly evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional. The vitamins we will consider in this article can be grouped into the B Complex or Antioxidant category.
B Complex Vitamins
Certain B vitamins are commonly grouped together as a “B complex” in a multivitamin pill or are available as a specially formulated B Complex preparation. The B Complex Vitamins that can improve memory are Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin), B6 (Pyridoxine), and Folic Acid (B9). These vitamins are all water-soluble, which means that they are quickly eliminated in your urine, so they can’t cause harmful effects by building up in your body. Therefore, they are generally safe in high doses.
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) – Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for memory. It is (as are all B complex vitamins) generally well absorbed from the GI tract. However, in people with pernicious anemia B12 is not properly absorbed from the GI tract. This disease causes memory loss and severe anemia if the B12 is not taken by injection or intranasally (inhaled through the nose).
Vitamin B12 is found in:
- Meat – Beef, Liver
- Poultry – Chicken (breast)
- Fish – Tuna, Salmon, Trout, Clams
- Breakfast Foods – Ham, Eggs, Milk, Cereal (fortified), Yogurt (Greek)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – Vitamin B6 is essential for the synthesis of neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) and myelin, both of which improve the function of nerve cells.
Vitamin B6 is found in:
- Meat – Beef, Pork
- Poultry – Chicken (breast)
- Fish – Salmon
- Vegetables – Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes
- Fruit – Bananas, Avocados
- Nuts – Pistachios
Folic Acid (B9) – Folic acid can improve cognitive function and lower the risk of developing dementia by helping to prevent elevated levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the brain.
Folic Acid is found in:
- Liver (beef)
- Vegetables – Peas, Beans, Lentils, Spinach, Beets, Broccoli
- Fruits – Bananas, Oranges, Grapefruits, Lemons, Limes
- Grains (fortified) – Bread, Pasta
Note: Prolonged severe dietary deficiencies of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) have been linked to delirium (problems thinking normally). These vitamins may also help improve memory when consumed on a regular basis.
Antioxidants prevent damage to cells in your body by inhibiting oxidation and preventing the production of free radicals. Free radicals can harm your body by preventing cellular repair. The following vitamins have antioxidant properties. It should be remembered that vitamins A, D, and E are fat-soluble and are therefore stored in organs like the liver. This gives them the ability to attain potentially harmful levels in your body if taken in high doses for prolonged periods of time.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A can help improve memory and learning skills by keeping the connections between nerve cells pliable (synaptic plasticity).
Vitamin A is found in:
- Vegetables – Carrots, Lettuce, Broccoli, Spinach, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, Red Peppers
- Fruits – Grapefruit, Cantaloupe
- Fish – Tuna
Vitamin C – Vitamin C acts as a cofactor to aid enzymes in the production of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Vitamin C is found in:
- Vegetables – Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Snow Peas, Kale, Tomatoes (technically a fruit)
- Fruits – Oranges, Strawberries, Kiwi, Papaya, Guavas
Vitamin E – Vitamin E mainly has protective effects as an antioxidant to help prevent the degeneration of nerve cells.
Vitamin E is found in:
- Vegetables – Broccoli, Spinach, Butternut Squash, Olives (oil)
- Fruits – Kiwi, Avocados
- Seeds and Nuts – Almonds, Sunflower Seeds
- Fish – Shrimp, Trout
Vitamin D – The Controversy Continues
The association between Vitamin D and the prevention or improvement of memory loss is still somewhat controversial. It may be helpful in improving visual-based memory (recognizing things you have seen before) but has not been shown to definitively improve verbal (word-finding) memory. There is some preliminary evidence that very low vitamin D levels may be associated with an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
Going Beyond Vitamins
In addition to vitamins, there are a variety of other natural dietary supplements (herbs and spices) that can improve memory. The most commonly used among these are Ginko Biloba, Ginseng, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Turmeric, Sage, Lemon Balm, Gotu Kola, Ashwagandha, St. John’s Wort, Guarana, Vinpocetine, Bacopa, Acetyl-L-carnitine, and Phosphatidylserine.
Prevagen (Apoaequorin) is a protein that was originally found in jellyfish, which is now being artificially manufactured by biochemical synthesis. Prevagen is thought to improve brain function and reduce memory decline by acting as a binding protein to regulate calcium in the brain. Although there are many testimonials that Prevagen improves memory, there have not been any published medical studies that objectively show significant improvement in recall ability.
For additional ways to improve memory loss see Improve Memory Loss – Supercharge Your Mind!
Putting It All Together
Vitamin supplementation is an excellent way to improve memory, since there are a large variety of foods that naturally contain adequate concentrations of B Complex vitamins and Antioxidants. These foods can be eaten in conjunction with artificially produced vitamin supplements to boost their concentrations. It is important to remember that fat-soluble vitamins can reach harmful levels because they are stored in the body.
Herbs and spices can be other sources of memory enhancers, which can augment the beneficial effects of vitamins. A diversified and well-balanced diet is an excellent long-term dietary strategy to safeguard against memory loss as the brain ages naturally.
High-tech dietary supplements, like Prevagen, which are artificially synthesized to improve memory by specifically targeting biochemical pathways that involve brain function, are currently being developed. These alternative therapies may someday play an important role in the treatment of severe memory problems.
While vitamins used in combination with herbs and spices can be an effective approach for improving minor memory disturbances, concerning symptoms should always be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional.
Tell Us What You Think!
Please let us know what’s on your mind in the comment section.
- Do you have any important tips or suggestions?
- Do you know anyone with memory loss or dementia?
- How are they and their family members coping with the problem?