Why B-vits = a healthy brain

Are you struggling to concentrate? Getting more B vitamins could be the key

Whether you’re studying for exams, preparing a presentation or just hoping to keep your grey matter sharp for as long as possible, B vitamins are great brain food.

Scientists think they are vital for our nervous systems, playing an important role in brain health.1 There are eight essential B vitamins: thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, biotin (B7), folic acid (folate), and vitamin B12.2 They work together to help convert food into energy, but also have their own jobs within the body, including helping brain function and development.3,4

B vitamins may improve your memory

As we get older, our brains lose neurons, the cells that send electrical impulses to and from the brain. Scientists think this is one reason why our memory and other thinking skills decline as we age.5,6 But in a 2010 study by Oxford University, researchers found that B vitamins can slow down how fast we lose these brain cells.7 Scientists gave folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 to a group of over-70s suffering from memory loss and concentration difficulties. After two years, the scientists found those taking B vitamins had lost fewer neurons than those on the placebo.8

They boost your mood

Feeling low? One reason may be that your diet doesn’t contain enough B-vitamins.

A study published in the journal Nutrients in 2016 found that low levels of vitamin B6 can lead to depression. Scientists think the nutrient helps the chemical messengers dopamine and serotonin, known as mood-boosters.9 A deficiency of either folate, niacin or biotin is thought to trigger depression, too.10,11

Where to find vitamin B-foods

Eating a balanced diet will help you increase your B-vit intake. Here’s where to find them:12
  • vitamin B1 - thiamin. Wholegrains, dried beans, nuts and seeds
  • vitamin B2 - riboflavin. Eggs, soybeans, yoghurt, mushrooms and wholegrains
  • vitamin B3 - niacin. Mushrooms, peanuts, wholegrains, meat and fish
  • vitamin B6 - pyridoxine. Potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and sunflower seeds
  • folate or folic acid - Broccoli, spinach, beans, peas, lentils, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds
  • vitamin B12 - Eggs, milk, cheese, fish, shellfish, meat. Vitamin B12 is also added to some soy and rice milk products.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
Sources
  1. Kennedy DO. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy – A Review. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/
  2. Dietitians of Canada. Functions and Food Sources of Some Common Vitamins. Available from: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Functions-and-Food-Sources-of-Common-Vitamins.aspx
  3. Laquale KM. B-complex vitamins’ role in energy release. Available from: http://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&context=mahpls_fac
  4. As Source 1
  5. Healthline. Brain Atrophy (Cerebral Atrophy). Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/brain-atrophy
  6. Peters R. Ageing and the brain. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2596698/
  7. Smith AD, et al. Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0012244#abstract0
  8. As above
  9. As Source 1
  10. Reynolds EH. Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123448/
  11. As Source 1
  12. As Source 2
Vitamin B