Increased memory and the power to focus and concentrate are important throughout life, particularly for learning and education. Many people worry that their poor diet, compounded by stress may cause deficiencies in vitamins that are important for memory and concentration. Parents worry about their children’s diet, particularly teenagers. But which vitamins support these brain functions? Will taking regular vitamin supplements and eating diets rich in vitamins, provide any improvement in memory, concentration and brain function?
Memory loss also worries many people as they get older due to its link with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dimentia. Many older people are looking at simple ways of boosting their memories with memory boosting vitamins, regular physical exercises, memory games to boost mental fitness and through lifestyle changes. Will these work?
Although there are a huge variety of “brain boosting” drugs and supplements on the market and lots of ‘old wives’, most lack the research required to support the claims.
This article provides a review of the vitamins and supplements that have been shown in various studies to support brain function and may be helpful in increasing memory and concentration.
Two recent research studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have given support to the claim that various vitamin supplements may improve memory skills in both children and older adults.
A French study of over 4000 subjects aged from 45–60 year who were given daily vitamin and antioxidant supplements over an 8-year period from 1994 to 2002, showed improved performance on the long-term memory tests. However there was no significant difference for short term mental flexibility tests. The daily supplements included vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium and zinc. Verbal memory was enhanced only in subjects that were non-smokers or who had low vitamin C levels in their blood at the start of the program. The researchers concluded that study supported the notion that a well-balanced intake of antioxidant nutrients at nutritional doses helped maintaining memory function, especially verbal memory.
Another study of Australian and Indonesian school-aged childrenshowed that well-nourished children whose diets were fortified with multiple micronutrients produced improvements in verbal learning and memory. About 400 Indonesian and Australian children (aged 6-10 y) were randomly allocated to be given a micronutrient mix (iron, folate, zinc and vitamins A, B-6, B-12, and C), and fatty acids or a placebo six days a week for 12 months. Cognitive performance was tested at the start of the study, and after 6 and 12 months.
Tests showed that the micronutrient supplements boosted the level of micronutrients in the blood of the children. The supplement produced significantly higher scores for memory tests for verbal learning and memory in Australia children and Indonesian girls. No effects were found on tests measuring general intelligence or attention.
Previous research has shown that a Mediterranean-style diet high in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and fish appears to curb brain inflammation that leads to memory loss.
Studies in rats and mice has shown promising results that curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, improve learning, spatial memory and concentration.
Supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, and B group vitamins also appear to help with memory.