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August 2017

B-Vitamins and Brain Health

Memory, problem solving and mental speed gradually decline with age.  Even though this cannot be totally prevented, there are some B-vitamins that are essential to helping the brain function at its best.  Folate, B6 and B12 are the key B-vitamins vital in keeping your mind sharp and are found in a variety of foods.  

The B-Vitamin Link
Adequate levels of folate, B6 and B12 are linked to brain health.

  • These vitamins help keep healthy blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid have been linked to impaired thinking and memory.
  • B12, along with folate and B6 protect the brain from shrinking, which is associated with impaired memory and dementia. 
  • Folate and B6 make chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain that communicate information.

Optimize your vitamin B intake by including the foods listed below on a regular basis.

Ask your doctor to check your homocysteine with a blood test.  If it is high, this may indicate low levels of these B-vitamins.

Optimize B – Vitamin Intake
Folate – is found in a wide variety of foods: vegetables (especially dark green leafy), fruits (citrus), beans (legumes), nuts, whole grains, dairy, meats and seafood.  Spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and black-eyed peas are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.

B6 – is also found in a variety of foods: fish, beef, poultry, legumes, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, as well as fruit (other than citrus) are among the best.

B12 – is found naturally in animal products: fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

B-12 is not found in plant foods; however, some foods are fortified with B12 (cereals) and nutritional yeast may also be a source.  The challenge with this vitamin is that even if you eat adequate amounts it may not be absorbed, especially if you take antacids on a regular basis.  Best to get your B12 level checked.  Ask your doctor if you need a supplement.

The Bottom Line
A healthy lifestyle can make a difference in your well-being.  Part of this lifestyle is to follow a sensible eating pattern.  This includes eating a variety of food such as: colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein (especially fish) along with reduced fat dairy products and whole grains.  It may also benefit your brain and boost your memory!


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