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Brain-Friendly B Vitamins

Brain-Friendly B Vitamins

Protect your brain by kicking up your B vitamin intake, especially if your diet isn’t the healthiest. Getting enough B vitamins to avoid deficiency may prevent a number of brain issues, such as seizures, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Vitamins (and minerals too) are substances in food that are essential to the normal growth, development and functioning of the body,” says pharmacist Stacy Wiegman. Here’s how B vitamins can help protect your brain.

Vitamins B6, B12 
Vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 help make red blood cells, help the body use fats and protein, and help promote proper brain and nervous system function. It’s rare to have a vitamin B6 deficiency, but vegans and strict vegetarians are at increased risk of a B12 deficiency, as this vitamin is found naturally in animal-derived foods.

“B12 deficiency causes several problems in the brain and nervous system, including numbness and tingling. If it gets really bad you can get see degeneration of [parts of the brain],” says Sharecare’s chief medical officer Keith Roach, MD.  

For vegans, strict vegetarians and those at risk of a B12 deficiency—particularly older adults, as the risk increases with age—Dr. Roach recommends a multivitamin. Most people’s diets have enough B12 to prevent a deficiency, he adds. The best sources of B12 include clams, beef, fish and milk products.

B9
Another B-vitamin that bears discussion is B9, more commonly known as folate or folic acid. Evidence increasingly suggests that folate, along with other B vitamins, are essential for brain health.

Most people get plenty of folic acid in their diets. Great sources include dark, leafy greens, beets, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, whole grains, kidney and white beans, peanuts, avocado, orange juice and fortified cereal. However, pregnant women are often advised to take a supplement, which helps lower the risk of neural tube defects, including brain damage in fetuses.

Medically reviewed in June 2018.

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