The vitamins that can keep your brain as young as you feel

The thought of living longer and physically healthier, but with the risk of losing our mental faculties, is a very real concern for us baby boomers. But losing your independence and mental abilities doesn’t have to be an inevitable result of getting older. For extra insurance to protect your brain’s neurons, you need to get plenty of the right vitamins.

Some of the most important brain vitamins are the B vitamins. Studies show that older people who lack B vitamins suffer extra brain shrinkage and may be more liable to experience memory difficulties with the passing years.

Research at the University of California-San Francisco, that examined how the B vitamins help the brain function, reveals that when you have very little folate (a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables) you are more likely to experience the serious memory problems of dementia. The result is cognitive decline: Your thinking becomes disturbingly cloudy and you have trouble functioning in day-to day life. The eventual result can be the memory-destruction of Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with these memory issues, the California study shows that low levels of folate lead to an increased risk of depression in older women.

And vitamin B12 is just as important: for your brain. Research at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago demonstrates that if you have too little B12, your brain is vulnerable to extra shrinkage as you age.

That kind of reduction in brain size also makes you more likely to encounter problems with your brainpower with each passing year.

A diet heavy on fresh, green vegetables and organic meats can supply a wealth of B vitamins, so if you’re on top of your diet, keep it up. But even for mindful eaters, a B vitamin supplement can be a good idea, especially if you’re getting up in years. Researchers are still debating how well an aging digestive tract absorbs some of the B vitamins. Some believe the availability of these nutrients, a few of which are made by probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract, declines with age.

Another concern: Vegetarians should almost certainly take B12 supplements. The richest source of vitamin B12 is in meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products. The vitamin is virtually non-existent in vegetarian foods.

So to be on the safe side, you should consider investing in a good B-complex vitamin to make sure you’re getting all of them. After all, it’s a good idea to keep your brain as young as you feel.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.