The fastest way to improve your memory is to practice it with the right techniques (see the Top 10 Memory Techniques). Although it is the quickest way, it does not necessarily mean it is the easiest way. The numero uno in this list demands dedication: you have to challenge your memory regularly to get better. Your daily Sudoku or Crossword could be part of your practice sessions, but make sure they do not get too easy. For a tailored program to practice your memory you could go to the neuroscientists of Lumosity (click here for a Free Trial).
Research after research shows: obesity is tied to memory loss. What you put into your body, will also find its way to your brain. And your memory engine does not work properly on junk food, alcohol and sugary drinks. Just as important as eating healthy is getting enough exercise. Research shows that exercise results in an increase of newborn neurons in the hippocampus, a seahorse shaped brain area that is important for storing memories.
Caffeine supplements are used most often as vitamins for memory in scientific research
Since there is a tight link between overall health and memory (see number 2), it probably does not come as a surprise that supplements that support health also improve memory. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to increased mental and physical health and are therefore popular vitamins for memory. You have to get Omega-3’s through your diet (your body does not make them), and if you do not eat fatty fish like salmon regularly, you might want to consider taking fish oil tablets.
Caffeine is the supplement that is used most often in scientific research to stimulate memory and the most popular drug worldwide. Caffeine stimulates nerve cells in the brain, which results in the release of adrenaline. This way caffeine does not only lead to an alert state, along other pathways in the brain it also increases the levels of dopamine, a chemical through which brain cells communicate. Dopamine is essential in learning.
Vitamin D is linked to a healthy brain and fluent cognition in many ways. You would expect that there has to be a strong link between memory and this vitamin, but researchers struggle to find this connection. Most people will get enough vitamin D (through sunlight and their diet), but some scientists advise elderly to take these vitamins.
6. Reducing stress
There is a tight link between memory loss and stress; a constant finding in research is that chronic over-secretion of stress hormones (cortisol) induces memory loss. Too much cortisol can prevent the brain from forming new memories and accessing existing ones. It can also lead to damage of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is important for memories and learning. Techniques to reduce cortisol-levels, such as meditation, exercise, or taking a bath, can be important vitamins for memory.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most popular vitamins for memory
These vitamins for memory seem more important to prevent age-related memory loss. A recent study found that the brains of people taking B-vitamins shrink at a lower rate compared to the brains of people not taking these supplements. B-vitamins seem to reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the brain and increased levels of homocysteine have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and a faster rate of brain shrinkage.
Antioxidants like vitamin C and E protect cells from influences of free radicals. Vitamin C and E are found in most fruits and vegetables. Some studies suggest that elderly show less cognitive decline after taking vitamins for memory containing these antioxidants. However, there are other studies that do not find a memory-link, hence, the lower position of these vitamins for memory in the top 10.
9. Huperzine A
Stories and studies from groups in Asia on the wonders of huperzine A caused a hype around this vitamin. Research groups in China found beneficial memory effects for people with Alzheimer’s disease, but these findings have not been replicated in the United States – so far.
10. Ginkgo biloba
Scientific research can be slow; it might take years before results are published. But when these results hit, they can be merciless. The memory reputation of Ginkgo biloba, once the Asian miracle that could even help Alzheimer’s patients, was demolished in a few studies.
Research on vitamins for memory:
Lazarov, et al. (2005). Environmental enrichment reduces Abeta levels and amyloid deposition in transgenic mice. Cell, 120 (5), 701-13.
Van Praag, et al. (2005). Exercise enhances learning and hippocampal neurogenesis in aged mice. Journal of Neuroscience, 25 (38), 8680–8685.
Vitamins for memory
There I was in the Melbournian pharmacy, facing a wall of vitamins for memory. Fish liquids for seniors, Omega-3 made from Salmon (with a capital ‘S’ indeed), Omega-3 Max, Ethical Fish Oil (whatever that means), Healthy Fish Oil, and all the before mentioned in a ‘super’ or ‘extra strong’ version.
The piles of research and mountains of articles about the benefits of 0mega-3 for memory and overall health had clearly a positive effect on the sales of fish oil in my local pharmacy. According to Forbes magazine the market of these types of vitamins for memory has become a multibillion-dollar business. Americans spend $2.6 billion on nutritional supplements and foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. ‘But not all of this is money well spent,’ stated the magazine.
The market of these types of vitamins for memory has become a multibillion-dollar business
So which omega-3 tablets are good vitamins for memory? I decided to start my research by asking the lady behind the counter of the pharmacy. That was a bad idea, because she looked at me as if I asked her if she had squeezed the oil out of those fishes herself. Annoyed she started to read the labels on the jars. This one is for seniors… These ones are made of salmon…
I ended up listening to my Dutch heritage and settled for the cheapest one. My second bad idea in only a few minutes, because as soon as I did some research when I returned home, I knew I had bought the wrong jar.
Omega-3 fatty acids are good vitamins for memory
It turns out there are some big differences between the different fish oil brands. Based on an interview with Dr. Frank Sacks, professor at Harvard School of Public Health, and a well-written article on healthcastle.com, I distilled the following guidelines for when I buy my next jar of omega-3 supplements.
1. Look for omega-3 supplements. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential nutrients, which means that our bodies cannot make them and we must obtain them from food. However, our Western diets are typically deficient in omega-3, the fatty acid that is associated with a healthier brain and memory. Omega-6 fatty acids also have many health benefits (for example, they are protective against heart disease), but they are abundant in the Western diet. Common sources of omega-6 fatty acids include corn, cottonseed and soybean oils.
Fish liver oils are not recommended as vitamins for memory
2. Look for EPA and DHA in these omega-3 supplements. In our diets there are two major types of omega-3 fatty acids. First, there is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and this type is found in some vegetable oils, walnuts, spinach and Brussels sprouts. The second type, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahenxaenoic acid (DHA), is found in fatty fish. Although the body partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA, researchers are divided whether vegetable omega-3 fatty acids are as beneficial as the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils. You might want to go for the memory vitamins that are supported by the most scientific research: EPA and DHA.
These are my main notes when buying these type of memory vitamins, but there are other things to look for:
3. The smaller the fish, the better. Although there are no signs that the levels of contaminants like PCBs, mercury or lead in most fish oils are unhealthy (see this ConsumerLab-report) you might want to minimize the chance of contaminants in your vitamins for memory. It is therefore best to choose supplements from smaller fish that are lower in the food chain (for example, sardines or anchovies).
4. Fish liver oils are not recommended as memory supplements. Fish liver oils are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, but they may cause toxicity if taken in excessive amounts.
Vitamins for memory
The most effective vitamins for memory contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Piles of research indicate that people taking these vitamins improve significantly on memory. Recently, for example, researchers in Australia found that children who were given a drink with Omega-3 fatty acids outperform peers who did not receive these vitamins on memory tests.
Besides memory, mental and physical health also benefit from vitamins for memory with Omega-3. Neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes explained on ABC News: “Our work has shown that the Omega-3 fatty acid may convey protection. Having it Omega-3 beforehand in your system or in your brain or even after, is protective, and does help the brain to heal.”
vitamins for memory with Omega-3 help the brain to heal
Omega-3 not only reduces cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease, but it also reduces the symptoms of ADHD and unipolar and bipolar depression.
What does Omega-3 do in the brain? The brain consists of billions of cells, so-called neurons, which form connections with one other. When we remember something, for example, some of the neurons in our brain connect. Omega-3 not only makes it easier for neurons to make contact with each other, it also strengthens these communication channels.
Although Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health and a strong memory, the body does not make them – you have to get them through food. And here arises a problem, because our diets do not contain enough Omega-3. “Unless you’re eating a lot of good fatty fish like salmon regularly, you just don’t get DHA in your diet, and that constitutes 97 percent of the brain’s Omega fats,” Dr. Bailes said.
Many specialists suggest taking Omega-3 supplements as vitamins for memory
Many specialists in the field of brain research strongly suggest taking Omega-3 supplements. These are not only vitamins for memory, but also reduce the risk of several diseases, like a heart disease. See also this article, on what to look for when buying Omega-3 supplements.