Concerns about memory loss abound. As our population ages we see people all around us suffering from various forms of cognitive decline. Those of us who are not yet in the age group typical for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are still concerned because we want to know how to prevent memory loss. As physicians , one of the most common questions we hear is “What vitamins can I take for memory and concentration?”. It seems that everyone either suffers from problems with memory or they are concerned about developing them.
And they should be. Recent data shows that nearly one third of Americans over the age of 70 have some form of memory problem . As people are living to older ages due to great treatment breakthroughs in heart disease and cancer, they are sticking around longer in body but their mind’s often decline.
So what is one to do to try to prevent dementia?
The experts have put out many recommendations about lifestyle factors that can lead lower rates of dementia. These typically include things that comprise a generally healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, a diet high in fruits, vegetable, whole grains and low in fat and sugar, moderate alcohol intake, good sleep habits. In addition, keeping your brain active with things like crossword puzzles, Sodoku and regular social interactions are also known to preserve to the continued firing of those brain cells.
However, many people would like to go beyond lifestyle changes to prevent memory loss. It is certainly worth considering what vitamins or supplements to take for memory loss and concentration. There is a great deal of research out there about many different vitamins for memory, with a just a few things showing some conclusive evidence that these vitamins prevent memory loss. They can in fact be a part of a custom all in one vitamin.
First, there are the B vitamins for memory.
It has been clearly established that people who are low in vitamin B12 have a number of neurological issues. Included in the symptoms of b12 deficiency are memory loss and low energy (among other things). Replacing B12 either through oral daily doses or occasionally, high dose injections (discuss with your doctor), or prescription nasal preparations, can improve these symptoms. B12 is an established vitamin to help with memory and brain function in those who need it. People who eat little meat are often low in this important vitamin.
However it remains unclear if taking this B vitamin helps memory in someone who does not have a deficiency. One smaller study showed some improvement in memory in cognition in people taking a combination of vitamin B12 and folic acid. B6 is another vitamin for dementia prevention that showed some promising effects when combined with B12 and folic acid. Another study showed some delay in onset of memory loss in those taking these vitamins for dementia. We conclude that these vitamins are potentially helpful as B12, B6 and folic acid for brain and nerve function are a known phenomenon. There is little downside to taking them in appropriate doses.
Other research about vitamins for memory loss have included some data on the antioxidant vitamins such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
There is some conflicting data, but some good information to suggest that reasonable doses of these vitamins may help prevent memory loss. They seem protect more against vascular dementia (related to small strokes) as compared to Alzheimer’s type dementia. However, many people with memory loss have features of both type of disease, so helping the vascular component would be useful. Vitamin C and Vitamin E seem to help prevent dementia because they have an anticoagulant or blood thinning effect. For this reason they should only be taken in moderate doses and with caution in someone who has a risk of bleeding (check with your doctor).
Perhaps one of the most compelling bits of recent research in regards to vitamins for memory and cognition is that regarding Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins we recommend. It is essential for bone health, general well being, energy and immunity. A recent study looked at people with different blood levels of vitamin D and found that those with very low levels of Vitamin D were about 50% more likely to develop dementia. From this one can conclude that raising vitamin D levels may help prevent memory loss, though it has not yet been proven.
It is known that Vitamin D may play a role in inflammation in the brain and this inflammation could be part of why people lose memory. We conclude that for this, among many other reasons, taking supplemental vitamin D to prevent memory loss is important. The majority of us are in fact Vitamin D deficient to varying degrees depending on where we live (since our best source of Vitamin D is the sun). Very few food sources provide a significant amount of Vitamin D3 (mainly wild caught salmon and beef liver are about the only ones). Take our brief vitaminsurvey to get the right vitamins in a Personalized Multivitamin.
Another consideration when trying to prevent memory loss with vitamins is supplements for memory loss derived from natural plants such as turmeric.
Turmeric , also known as curcumin, is a spice used frequently in Indian cooking and curries. This flavorful yellow powder may have benefits in preventing inflammatory processes including Alzheimer’s disease. It was first noted that the people of India have much lower rates of dementia than their western counterparts. Then several studies were done showing improvement in parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s. There is great promise for this. Likely it is best to use turmeric as much as possible in cooking. If this is difficult, daily supplements can be found (doses of 500mg daily have been recommended, however as with any supplement be sure to use a reputable brand known for quality and purity).
The downside? Too much turmeric can affect the liver so should be used with caution in those with liver issues or taking other medications metabolized by the liver . Turmeric may also cause thinning of the blood and interfere with other medicines that cause bleeding. Do confer with your doctor if you have these issues.
A discussion of vitamins for memory and cognition would not be complete without mention of Omega-3s.
These essential fats are found in fish and many “good fat” foods such as avocados and nuts. They are felt to have anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies suggest a benefit to these “good fats” and some show no association with cognitive decline. It is our belief that Omega3s are generally good for you. They are best found via natural food sources. If you feel the need to take a supplement be cautious to find one that does not have high levels of Mercury.
The following link will provide a healthful and delicious recipe for Salmon with Indian Spices. This recipe is chock full of Vitamin D (if you use wild caught salmon only), Calcium from the yogurt, Omega 3s, and turmeric.
On a daily basis, a good Personalized Multivitamin will address your individual needs for vitamins. Click here to take our vitamin quiz about your diet, lifestyle, personal and family health histories to get your custom all in one vitamin and Find Your Vous!
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.