The brain is part of the central nervous system which is in charge of processing information and body functions.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the growth and development of the brain and for preventing cerebrovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially essential for cognitive processes as learning and memory. Diets including fish are a major source for fatty acids (as omega-3) with benefits including lower cholesterol levels and preventing buildup in the blood vessels. These kinds of diets can lower the risk of age related cognitive decline and perhaps even prevent dementia.
Vitamin and minerals
In order for brain functioning at optimal levels it needs a wide range of micronutrients as folic acid and vitamins B12 and B6 as well as minerals, as zinc, magnesium and calcium, which all have specific roles in the normal development of the central nervous system. The highest concentrations of Vitamin C in the body are found in the brain, especially in areas with many neurons. Calcium is needed for many nerve processes. Zinc is found in the fore-brain, especially in areas with many neurons. Vitamin D has a diverse role in maintaining brain health. Vitamin E is necessary for normal neurological function.
Foods containing vitamins and minerals
- Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, is an important antioxidant, which also improves iron absorption.
- Magnesium is found in whole grain foods as dark breads: whole wheat, rye and pumpernickel, it has an important role in a variety of metabolic reactions, particularly energy-requiring processes.
- Vitamin E found in corn, soybean, and in oils as olive, palm, rice bran and barley oils is an antioxidant that protects the membranes by controlling lipids.
- Meat, particularly red meat as beef, is the most common and the richest source for iron and zinc which are necessary for the structure and function of proteins. It’s not recommended to eat meat together with milk products containing calcium, which can weaken the absorption of iron and zinc in the body.
Deficiency, lack of vitamins and minerals
Deficiency can occur in vitamins B12 and B6 and folic acid as well as in vitamins C, D and E and in the minerals, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Any of these deficiencies has the potential of affecting cognitive performance for concentration and memory.
Many people suffer from deficiency in these vitamins and minerals, even in the developed countries. The most vulnerable to such a deficiency are the elderly and those who have many work pressures to deal with or have a stressful lifestyle.
Iron and zinc deficiencies (often found together) cause cognitive and psychomotor functioning and learning difficulties. While the undesirable effect of severe iron and zinc deficiencies is damaged neuropsychological functioning. The good news is these deficiencies can be reversed. Iron deficiency repletion will help improve learning and memory.
Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to the development of central nervous system diseases as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease as well as other chronic diseases as osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, hypertension and atherosclerosis. Vitamin D is absorbed in the body through daily exposure to the sun. Treatment with supplements is also highly recommended.
A study was designed to assess the impact of multi-vitamin and mineral supplement given to participants in the treatment compared to a control group receiving placebo. The assessments compared the groups on variables as speed, accuracy and mental fatigue during continuous performance of cognitively demanding tasks. The results show the treatment group had lower levels of mental fatigue and a higher ability to improve on the difficult cognitive tasks compared to the placebo group. The treatment group which received the multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, reported they also felt in a better mood and more vigorous.
David O et al. Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 July; 211(1): 55–68.