Vitamins for memory – The top 10 memory vitamins
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.