Vitamins D are popular vitamins for memory, especially with older adults. However, a new study warns that taking too much vitamin D could be counterproductive – and even dangerous. Too much of the vitamin doubles the chances of developing an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. (more…)
Many brands that sell vitamins for memory have included vitamin D in their product.
Higher vitamin D levels have been linked to the alleviation of symptoms in many diseases. From depression to bone health, and from muscle function to some forms of cancers, research has found an important role for vitamin D. Recently, a study by a group from Harvard University found an increased intake of this vitamin is also associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in men.
It is an impressive list, but the question is: does vitamin D also boost memory?
Fatty fish contains these vitamins for memory
Let’s first look at vitamin D, which is present in only a few foods, for example, fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fortified milk. We get most of our vitamin D from exposure to ultraviolet rays (UV) in sunlight. UV from the sun converts a biochemical in the skin to vitamin D.
Vitamin D effects can be found throughout the whole brain, but two important areas for planning, processing, and forming new memories are major stations in the metabolic pathways for vitamin D. These areas are the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped area in the middle of the brain, and the cerebellum, situated at the back of the brain (see picture below).
Scientific research has repeatedly found that levels of vitamin D affect cognitive functioning and memory. In one study on more than 1000 elders, participants who did have adequate vitamin D levels in their blood scored far better on cognitive tests than those with insufficient levels.
Another research, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found a similar effect. In participants with Alzheimer’s disease and healthy older subjects, vitamin D deficiency was associated with impairment in cognitive performance. Interestingly, this study also found a link between low vitamin D levels and low mood.
It seems safe to say that D vitamins are vitamins for memory. But does it also mean that taking these vitamins for memory will have beneficial effects on your brain and memory? Until this day no research has been done on D vitamin supplementation and memory.
D vitamins are vitamins for memory for older adults
More and more researchers recommend taking vitamin D as vitamins for memory, though. McCann and Ames critically reviewed all the scientific evidence for a link between vitamin D and brain function in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). They concluded that the evidence overall indicates that supplementation, which is both inexpensive and prudent, is warranted for groups whose vitamin D status is exceptionally low, particularly the elderly.
Why should you consider taking these vitamins for memory when you get older?
Research has shown that older adults are at increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency in part because their skin cannot synthesize vitamin D efficiently, they are likely to have less exposure to sunlight (they spend more time indoors), and may have less adequate intakes of vitamin D (e.g. poorer appetite).
How much of these vitamins for memory do you need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D in the US is 15 micrograms (600 International Units – IU) for everyone between 1 and 70 years of age. Above 70 years, the RDA increases to 20 micrograms (800 IU). To put this in perspective, almost all of the US milk supply is fortified with 100 IU per cup.
D vitamins are linked in many ways to cognition, and in these ways they are vitamins for memory. However, when living a healthy lifestyle, it is unlikely for an adult to improve brain health by taking vitamin D in supplements. However, scientists do conclude that it might be beneficial for elderly to take these vitamins for memory.
- Becker, et al. (2005). Transient prenatal vitamin D deficiency is associated with subtle alterations in learning and memory functions in adult rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 161(2), 306-312.
- Buell, et al. (2009). Vitamin D is associated with cognitive function in elders receiving home health services. Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 64A (8), 888-895.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
- McCann & Ames. (2008). Review Article: Is there convincing biological or behavioral evidence linking vitamin D deficiency to brain dysfunction” FASEB J. 22: 982-1001.
- Przybelski & Binkley. (2007). Is vitamin D important for preserving cognition? A positive correlation of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration with cognitive function. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 460 (2), 202-205.
- Wilkins, et al. (2006). Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14 (12), 1032-1040.
Vitamins for memory
According to a recent survey 60 percent of US adults take vitamins or supplements and particularly vitamins for memory are popular. The top 7 of most popular vitamins are all linked to vitamins for memory.
75 percent of the respondents that take supplements choose multivitamins, making them the most popular supplement in the US. vitamins for memory vitamin D and vitamin C came second and third with respectively 52 and 49 percent of the participants adding them to their diet. Calcium (45 percent), B Vitamins (43 percent), Fish oil (42 percent) and Iron (25 percent) completed the top 7.
Dietary supplements are increasingly popular. Over 40 percent of US adults used supplements in 1988-1994, which increased to half of the population in 2003-2006, according to a study by CDC. Vitamin D and particularly multivitamins have increased significantly in popularity. In 2003-2006 approximately 40 percent of US adults took multivitamins – compared to 75 percent today.
According to the recent research, conducted by Wakefield Research for Vitamin Shoppe, starting on a vitamin regimen is not an impulsive decision. Nearly half of the respondents began taking a vitamin based on the recommendation of an expert, a third gave improving overall health as a reason, and one in ten wanted to feel better about themselves.
And they sure did feel good about themselves, given that more than 70 percent agreed with the statement ‘I feel more confident about my overall health when taking vitamins and/or supplements’.
Interestingly, the research did not find major differences between men and women in taking vitamins or supplements. 65 Percent of women and 55 percent of men take dietary supplements. Vitamin C, B vitamins and fish oil, well-known memory vitamins, are slightly more popular with men, while women tend to buy more multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron.
Children take less vitamins for memory
Results from the survey further suggests that having a child has a negative effect on taking vitamins for memory; only 38 percent of moms and dads take a daily vitamin – compared to 60 percent of all US adults.
Few parents pass on the habit of taking supplements to their children. Only 34 percent of children get a daily vitamin. One possible reason why kids stay behind in taking dietary supplements compared to adults, is that 59 percent of the parents said it is a challenge to find out which vitamins and supplements they needed to give their child.
Reasons why people not take vitamins for memory
And what about the respondents that do not take vitamins? They were asked why they did not take vitamins, and 43 percent felt they did not need vitamins with a balanced diet.
Almost one in four gave a different reason: they thought they would never remember to take them!
It seems the ultimate reason to start taking vitamins or memory.
Wakefield Research – for Vitamin Shoppe. (2011). America’s Take on Vitamins. (link)
Gahche, et al. (2011). Dietary supplement use among U.S. adults has increased since NHANES III (1988–1994). NCHS data brief, no 61. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011. (link)
Vitamins for memory