B vitamins. A study published earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows B vitamins—specifically vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid (B9)—may be one our best tools for fighting off Alzheimer’s disease. Taken together, these three B vitamins were shown to slow atrophy and shrinkage in certain areas of the brain.
The research was focused on older people who already showed signs of slight cognitive impairment. But we now know Alzheimer’s is the result of years of accumulated brain damage—which means the earlier you enact brain-healthy habits, the better.
Study participants in the vitamin group took 0.5 milligrams of vitamin B12, 20 milligrams of vitamin B6 and 0.8 milligrams of folic acid daily. The supplements cost about 30 cents a day in pharmacies and health-food stores, Bloomberg notes. Most B-complex supplements contain vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid.
Phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine—a substance that’s naturally occurring in beef, oysters and soy and also available as a supplement—can improve thinking and slow memory loss. In another study published this week, researchers revealed that it can also improve the functioning of genes involved in brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
“The supplement can pass through the blood-brain barrier even when administered orally, and accumulate in sufficient amounts in the brain,” said study co-lead Gil Ast, a professor at Tel Aviv University.
Once there, phosphatidylserine (also spelled phosphatidyl serine) can help transmit signals between brain cells and protect these neurons from early death.
Fish oil. No suggestion of supplements for brain health is complete without mentioning fish oil. The ultimate brain-healthy supplement, fish oil (or similar substances, such as krill oil) is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for heart, brain and mental health.
Omega-3s are a big part of what gives the Mediterranean diet its longevity-promoting power; they have been linked to greater brain volume (which is important) and have been shown to help improve memory and cognition even in young, healthy adults.
What’s more, fish oil supplements can help protect the brain from the negative effects of a sugar- or saturated fat-heavy diet.