Vitamin B and brain health

The Role of B Vitamins for Brain Health

B vitamins are a group of essential vitamins that play a crucial role maintaining a healthy body by supporting the function of our cells.

The Function of B Vitamins

B vitamins are typically found in plants except for vitamin B12. In plants, B vitamins play a crucial role in many cellular processes, such as photosynthesis, respiration, and DNA synthesis. They help to produce energy, regulate gene expression, and maintain cell structure. B vitamins also play a role in plant growth and development, including seed germination and root formation.

Similarly, in humans, B vitamins are essential for many important bodily functions. They help to convert food into energy, support the nervous system, and aid in the production of DNA and red blood cells. Some B vitamins, such as folate and vitamin B12, are especially important for proper brain function and mood regulation.

8 Types of B Vitamins

There are eight different B vitamins, each with its own unique role in the body, Thiamin (vitamin B1), Riboflavin (vitamin B2), Niacin (vitamin B3), Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), Pyridoxine (vitamin B6), Biotin (vitamin B7), Folate (folic acid or vitamin B9), and Cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12).

Specific Roles of B Vitamins in the Brain

The brain is responsible for controlling everything we do, including our thoughts, emotions, and movements, and it requires a lot of energy to do so. B vitamins help to produce this energy and keep the brain functioning properly.

Research suggests that all 8 B vitamins play a prominent role in supporting our neurological and physiological functions. These vitamins help to regulate the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which can affect our mood and emotions. They also help to support memory and learning by aiding in the production of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that allow nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other.

Research Linking B Vitamins to Brain Health

There has been a significant amount of research into the role of B vitamins in brain health, particularly in the areas of cognitive function and mental health.

Cognitive Decline

A meta-analysis found that B supplementation slowed down the rate of cognitive decline, in correlation with a study  suggesting that folic acid combined with vitamin B12 in preventing cognitive decline shows promising results.

A team, from the Universities of Cape Town, Oslo, Oxford and the UAE, found that supplementing B vitamins with Omega-3 was especially effective in preventing cognitive decline, compared to those with low levels of Omega-3. However, further research is needed to solidify these claims.

Brain Atrophy

Various factors are thought to be involved in the affecting the rate of brain atrophy. Studies suggest that  raised levels of homocysteine increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, the role of B vitamins was studied in regulating levels of homocysteine and whether it could reduce the rate of brain atrophy. A B complex supplement containing vitamins B12, B6, and folic acid were given to volunteers and proved to show a reduction in brain atrophy. There was a 30% decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group.

Mental health

In addition to cognitive function, B vitamins have also been investigated for their potential role in mental health. A review of over 30 published articles and studies found that lower levels of vitamin b12 in the body are associated with the risk of developing depression.

While these studies suggest a potential benefit of B vitamins for brain health, it is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the effects of these vitamins on cognitive function and mental health.

B Vitamin Supplements

Without a doubt, B vitamins play a crucial role in supporting our brain and bodies in various functions. A deficiency in B vitamins can lead to various neurological symptoms, including confusion, memory problems, and mood disturbances.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 6% of the population in the UK are deficient in vitamin B12.

To ensure that you are obtaining adequate amounts of all B vitamins, taking B vitamin complex supplements can be beneficial to ensure adequate intake and promote brain and overall health.

By Panasha Desai, Pharmacist