The human brain uses a number of nutrients to function properly and maintain its good health. Many nutrients must be obtained from foods or supplements. While it is not known whether certain nutrients actually heal the brain, their deficiency in the diet can cause significant neurological problems in adults and in fetuses.
The B vitamins have many biological functions. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 have been widely studied for their effects on the central nervous system. It is not clear whether taking these vitamins can enhance brain function, although their deficiency can have profound neurological effects. Vitamin B-6, also known by its chemical name pyridoximine is needed for brain neurons to synthesize serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters. The NIH says Parkinson’s disease, pain and neuropathy may be associated with a vitamin B-6 insufficiency. Vitamin B-12, representing the cobalamin group of chemicals, is well-known for its role in making DNA. Deficiency may cause walking problems as well as spasticity. Supplements may avert dementia, psychosis, nerve damage and help recover from Bell’s palsy.
Folic acid or vitamin B-9 is a special B vitamin in that it is well established as one of the most crucial nutrients for pregnant women. This is because if a mother lacks folic acid, her baby may be born with birth defects. The NIH says that if a pregnant woman does not get adequate amounts, she risks her baby having spina bifida or anencephaly. This is when the spinal cord or brain, respectively, develop outside the baby’s body, usually resulting in the baby’s death.
Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid. It is a well-known antioxidant that protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Vitamin C also is necessary to synthesize collagen for connective tissue. In the brain, this nutrient can change your mood and improve thinking abilities, says the Linus Pauling Institute and Medical News Today. Supplements also can lower your chances of a stroke or damage to the brain’s blood vessels.
Vitamins D and E
The chemical class called tocopherols, also known as vitamin E, is a powerful antioxidant. Studies show it may help slow down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and simultaneously enhance the brain’s thinking abilities. The chemical called cholecalciferol is the most common form of vitamin D. This vitamin helps the body absorb minerals. According to a report in Medical News Today, it may improve thinking abilities in older individuals.
Omega-3 represents a group of fatty acids called essential fatty acids because the body cannot make them; you rely on food to obtain them. The University of Maryland Medical Center says the brain may use omega-3s to help maintain normal memory and learning abilities. It also may help to prevent conditions such as depression and ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids may also be important for the normal development of a baby's vision.