Improve Your Mental Alertness Nutritionally
Vitamin B-12 for Better Cognitive Functions
Support Brain Function With B Vitamins
Boost Your Memory With Vitamin B -12
You can improve your memory, mental alertness and other cognitive functions with two basic groups of vitamins. These two groups are the B vitamins and the antioxidant vitamins. B -complex (the B vitamin group) is made up of nine vitamins:
l Vitamin B-1 (thiamine)
l Vitamin B – 2 (riboflavin)
l Vitamin B-3 (niacin)
l Vitamin B – 5 (pantothenic acid)
l Vitamin B -6 (pyrodoxine)
l Vitamin B -7 (biotin)
l Vitamin B -8 (inositol)
l Vitamin B – 9 (folic acid)
l Vitamin B – 12 (cyanocobalamin)
Three of these B vitamins are very important for alertness and other cognitive functions. These three B vitamins are folic acid, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. The anti-oxidant vitamins include vitamins A, C, D, and E.
The B Vitamins
B Vitamins have numerous attributes that support brain functions. They support myelination of the axons of brain cells (neurons). Myelination is the wrapping of the neuronal axons by the insulating material, myelin sheaths, from the schwann cells. Myelination is important for proper conduction of electrical impulses in the neurons . B vitamins also help with the breakdown of the amino acid homocysteine. Homocysteine is a risk factor for cognitive decline. It is associated with Alzheimer and dementia. B vitamins are also important for erythropoiesis (production of red blood cells). Red blood cells are important for adequate oxygen supply to the brain to support its functions.
The B vitamins support both long and short-term memories. The effects of these vitamins are particularly notable if one is deficient in them. With regard to deficiency, vitamin B-12 is often the cause of concern. Most of these B vitamins can readily be obtained from vegetables and fruits, particularly, the leafy green vegetables such as spinach and collard greens. Vitamin B -12, however, can pose a problem in terms of availability and your body's ability to absorb and utilize it.
Vitamin B -12 deficiency is a problem that is prevalent among the aging population. It is estimated that 15% of adults over 50 years old have vitamin B-12 deficiency. Anemia, lethargy, lack of energy, poor concentration and forgetfulness are some of the symptoms of B-12 deficiency.
The elderly are more prone to vitamin B-12 deficiency largely because of digestive problems that make it difficult for them to digest and absorb vitamin B-12 from nutritional sources. Vitamin B -12 from animal sources are more digestible than the ones from plant sources. Plants are generally a weak and poor source of vitamin B -12. Choosing the animal source for this vitamin, however, does not solve the deficiency problem, because there are other factors that influence the bioavailability and deficiency of this vitamin.
The presence of adequate amounts of acids (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach is necessary for the proper digestion of vitamin B-12. Acid is needed to help breakdown vitamin B-12-containing foods so that vitamin B-12 would become available for absorption. Acid secretion into the stomach tends to decline as we age and this contributes to vitamin B-12 deficiency. Secondly, some elderly people with digestive problems such as acid reflux disease and peptic ulcer, are often treated with anti-acids (e.g., proton pump inhibitors) which further diminish the acid in the stomach.
Alternative Approach for Treating Digestive Problems
To avoid vitamin B-12 deficiency when treating digestive diseases such as acid reflux disease and peptic ulcer, it is important to consider alternative approaches that do not decrease stomach acidity. There are numerous effective nutritional alternatives for treating acid reflux disease such as consuming papaya, aloe vera and pineapple. This alternative approach has a strong potential for improving the quality of life for the elderly. The memory and cognitive functions in the elderly would be improved with nutritional treatment because dementia and other cognitive problems would not be worsened by vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Antioxidant vitamins can prevent the adverse effects of free radicals. Free radicals are charged molecules that are produced by chemical reactions associated with metabolism and other biochemical processes in the body. Free radicals are deleterious to cells or various organs and systems, ranging from the cardiovascular system to the nervous system. Damages to the cells of a given organ impairs the functional integrity of that organ. Antioxidant vitamins, particularly vitamins A, C and E protect the brain cells from oxidative damage by free radicals.