Natural Mind and Memory Boosters
Vitamins And Minerals: A Brain's Best Friend
It's official: multivitamins and minerals make you brainier. This was first proven by a research study involving ninety students, carried out by Gwilym Roberts, a schoolteacher and nutritionist from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, and Dr. David Benton, a psychologist from the Department of Psychology at Swansea University College in Wales. Sixty students were given either a special multivitamin and mineral supplement designed to ensure an optimal intake of key nutrients or a placebo. Thirty students, serving as a control group, were given no supplement at all. After eight months, the IQs of those taking the supplements had risen by over ten points! No changes were seen in those taking the placebos, or in the control group.
More than a dozen similar studies have been done since and, even with smaller nutrient doses, lower but still significant IQ changes have been reported. For example, a study at the University of California revealed an average increase of 4.4 IQ points in students receiving only the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) level of vitamins and minerals. Almost half of the students on supplements had an increase in IQ of fifteen or more points.
Exactly how vitamin and mineral supplementation increases IQ scores was discovered by psychologist Wendy Snowden from Reading University's Department of Psychology. In her trial, she also gave children either supplements or placebos. Those children receiving the supplements showed significant increases in IQ scores after ten weeks. A close analysis of performance in the IQ tests showed the same error rate, but fewer unanswered questions after the ten weeks of supplementation. Since almost all the unanswered questions came toward the end of the test, when the children ran out of time, the children on supplements seemed to answer questions faster (hence fewer omissions). This suggests that the effect of the vitamin and mineral supplements was to increase the speed of processing, perhaps by increasing concentration, which is clearly a significant factor in intelligence. In other words, vitamins don't increase your inherent intelligence, but they do help you to think faster and concentrate longer.
While few similar studies have been performed on adults, it's highly likely that optimum intakes of vitamins and minerals can improve their concentration and speed of information processing as well. One study carried out by Dr. Benton at Swansea University College gave 127 adults ten times the RDA levels of vitamins and minerals, or dummy pills. After twelve months, the women were showing real improvement in attention and mental performance. Why the men didn't show similar improvements remains a mystery.
Of all the vitamins and minerals, B vitamins have the most important role in ensuring optimal brain function due to their vital role in delivering oxygen to the brain and protecting it from harmful free radicals. B vitamins also turn glucose into energy within the brain cells and assist in the manufacture of neurotransmitters. B vitamins are, in short, your brain's very best friends. Let's see how they do it.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) is particularly good at enhancing memory. In one study, subjects of various ages received 141 mg of niacin a day. Memory was improved by 10 to 40 percent in all age groups.
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) helps improve memory and mental alertness. You can sharpen your memory by taking 250-500 mg a day. As you've learned, vitamin B5 is essential for the formation of acetylcholine.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is necessary for making neurotransmitters. It's also necessary for converting amino acids into the important neurotransmitter serotonin a deficiency of which can cause depression and other problems. One study found that about one-fifth of depressed people who participated were deficient in pyridoxine. Even 20 mg a day can improve memory, but suggested supplementation is 20-100 mg a day.
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) has been shown in laboratory experiments to speed up the rate at which rats learn. Because B12 is essential for the health of nerve cells, its absence is a prime cause of mental deterioration and confusion in older people. A dosage of 10-100 mcg of B12 a day is usually sufficient. Older people often have very poor absorption of B12, and may benefit from much higher amounts, such as 1,000 mcg daily. Taking B12 in an under-the-tongue formula improves its absorption.
- Folic acid, like vitamin B12, is essential for oxygen delivery to the brain. A deficiency in either causes macrocytic or large cell anemia, meaning that the red blood cells actually enlarge in order to carry more oxygen, since they are short of these nutrients. You need about 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
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From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright © Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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