Maximize Your Brain Power: Essential Nutrients
Essential Nutrients for Healthy Brian Function
Scientific evidence is currently stimulating a resurgence of interest in the link between nutrition and cognition. Interest is focused on what is called “subclinical” malnutrition — which is a nutritional deficiency that is relatively mild. These subclinical deficiencies manifest themselves with very subtle symptoms, generally ones related to brain functions such as intelligence and memory.
Numerous studies have confirmed that a selective vitamin deficiency can cause mental problems at any age. Dr. Carl Pfeiffer was just one of several who studied the aged and found that when people of the same age are compared, those with senility are more likely to be deficient nutritionally. Malnutrition is one cause of reversible senility, as long as the senility has not progressed too far.
The Vital Vitamin B-Complex and Our Brain
We know the B-complex vitamins are essential for all aspects of the nervous system, including brain function. The B vitamins need to be taken together in adequate amounts throughout one’s life.
In a study of 228 individuals between 73 and 102 years of age, 30 percent had low blood levels of one or more B vitamins. These deficiencies occurred even though food intake was adequate and all were taking a daily vitamin supplement. This study suggests that absorption of B vitamins is impaired in a large portion of the geriatric population.
All of the B Vitamins Help With Brain Function
- Thiamin (B1) — the brain and nerves are the first areas of the body to show signs of a deficiency. It helps convert glucose into energy. It also mimics acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter involved in memory) and plays a role in brain functions related to memory and cognition. Symptoms may include mental confusion, subjectively poor memory, difficulty in concentration, and even mental illness. One study shows that a high dose of B1 supplementation (3,000 mg to 8,000 mg a day) may actually decrease the deleterious effects of senility. This high dose may throw off your B vitamin balance, so be careful.
- Riboflavin (B2) — helps with cognitive impairment and mental deficit. This is probably the most common vitamin deficiency. A deficiency may be accompanied by trembling, lack of stamina and vigor, retarded growth, digestive disturbances, hair and weight loss, and possibly even personality disturbances.
- Niacin (B3) — enhances memory and is a method of treatment for senility. A deficiency may also result in mental illness. Perceptual changes in the five senses are usually a key in determining if the person is deficient in niacin. In some, the ground moves when they walk, they hear voices, or words move when they try to read, or their faces seem to change when they look in the mirror.
- Pantothenic Acid (B5) — is essential to support the adrenal glands when a person comes under stress. A deficiency may lead to adrenal exhaustion, physical and mental depression, overwhelming fatigue, reduced production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, allergies, some forms of arthritis, nerve degeneration, spinal curvature, disturbed pulse rate, and gout. It is essential to the production of antibodies which help fight off infection.
- Pyridoxine (B6) — is necessary for the manufacturing of valuable amino acid-derived neurotransmitters. Symptoms may be low blood sugar, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, neuritis, arthritis, trembling in the hands of the aged, edema (water retention) and swelling during pregnancy, nausea, air or sea sickness, mental retardation, epilepsy, kidney stones, anemia, excessive fatigue, nervous breakdown, mental illness, and acne (especially during menstruation). May provoke epileptic seizures in people prone to them, and may cause convulsions in babies.
- Cobalamin (B12) — increases the rate at which new material can be learned. Plays an important role in the formation of the myelin sheath around nerve fibers. Can cause pernicious anemia, nerve dysfunction—meaning weakness, poor reflexes, and strange sensations in the arms and legs—and impaired mental activity. May cause depression, especially in the elderly.
- Folic Acid — may help mental illness, including schizophrenia, dementia and senility. Necessary for the synthesis of RNA and DNA, which are proteins required for cell reproduction and division. Symptoms are much the same as those of a B-12 deficiency. Birth defects are one of the worst results of a deficiency during pregnancy.
- Frank, O., et al. "Superiority of periodic intramuscular vitamin injections over daily oral vitamins in maintaining normal vitamin titers in a geriatric population." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 30 (1977): 630.
- Lindberg, Gladys and Judy McFarland. Take Charge of Your Health. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982.
- Benton, D., et al. "The impact of long-term vitamin supplementation on cognitive function." Psychopharmacology 117: 298-305, 195
- Meador, K. J., et al. "Evidence for a central cholinergic effect of high dose thiamine." Annals of Neurology 34 (1993): 724-26. This high dose may throw off the B vitamin balance, so be careful.
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