Your brain accounts for only 2 percent of your body weight, but uses almost 25 percent of your glucose energy supply. It also requires about 15 percent of your blood supply and a host of vitamins to keep it functioning optimally. A deficiency of some vitamins can compromise how well you can remember things and concentrate, your focus and balance, and the overall health of your brain.
B Vitamins and Brain Signalling
Nerve cells -- neurons -- within the brain communicate with each other and with your body using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. The Linus Pauling Institute explains that B vitamins including vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate are needed to produce neurotransmitters. Vitamin B-6 also helps to control the binding of neurotransmitters as they bounce from one neuron to another. Additionally, vitamin B-12 is needed to maintain the fatty outer sheath of the neurons. B vitamins are found in a variety of foods including whole grains, lean meats and dairy.
Vitamin C Protects Your Brain
An antioxidant nutrient, vitamin C helps remove toxins and wastes. According to a study in "Free Radical Biology and Medicine," it may help prevent the buildup of toxins in the brain that can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer's, which affects memory and Parkinson's, which damages the nerves. Vitamin C is also required for the production of neurotransmitters. Additionally, it helps build the elastic tissue collagen that keeps arteries flexible for improved blood flow to your brain. Good food sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, broccoli, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes.
Vitamin D and Brain Function
Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin" affects the function of your brain and your ability to think, concentrate and problem-solve. This vitamin is needed for normal brain development and may help prevent disorders that affect the brain, such as multiple sclerosis and Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Your body can produce some vitamin D, and it is also found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, eggs, fortified milk and cereals.
Vitamin E and Brain Development
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect brain tissues from damage. A severe deficiency in this vitamin can lead to symptoms such as impaired balance and coordination, a condition called ataxia, as well as abnormal eye movements. Vitamin E is particularly important for the developing brain in children. Additionally, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that it may help prevent Alzheimer's disease and even slow its progression, however, further studies are needed on this use of vitamin E. Rich food sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, liver, eggs, vegetable oils and green leafy vegetables.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrients and Cognitive Function
- International Journal of Biochemistry: Inhibition of GABA Binding by Pyridoxal and Pyridoxal Phosphate
- Free Radical Biology and Medicine: Vitamin C Function in the Brain: Vital Role of the Ascorbate Transporter
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin D
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin E