I have written extensively about how important adequate amounts of essential fatty acids are for brain health. B vitamins are also an ingredient in restoring brain health because they are needed for the absorption of minerals such as magnesium and also work in conjunction with essential fatty acids such as omega 3’s. Unfortunately, they are often near the top of the list for most common deficiencies particularly among children. Omega 3’s fats combined with B vitamins have the best results when taken together; they affect coordination, mood, memory, focus and even vision.
Research has shown that among the aging population, the B vitamin and omega 3 combination reduced atrophy of the brain (brain shrinkage) and thus was preventative in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
B1 and B2 – Thiamine and Riboflavin – Deficiency in B1 affects cognitive abilities since it is required to regulate how carbohydrates are metabolized. Both B1 and B2 assists in turning carbohydrates into glucose–your brain’s source of energy.
B1 – Sesame seeds sunflower seeds, pork, asparagus, spinach, legumes, trout
B2 – Liver, almonds, mackerel, eggs spinach, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, pork, sardines
B3 – Niacin –B3 helps to relax the central nervous system and decreases feelings of hyperactivity, irritability and improves cognition. It also maintains the health of the gastrointestinal tract and aids in the absorption of key brain nutrients such as magnesium calcium and zinc.
Dietary Sources – Legumes, potatoes, peanuts, meat, tuna, mackerel and organ meats.
B6 for Brain Power
If there is a B vitamin that is crucial for brain health and has been shown in countless studies to have a profound effect on the brain it is B6. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow your brain cells to communicate with one another. B6 is essential for creating various neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Deficiency results in low dopamine levels which can present as in short attention span, poor memory, difficulty being able to process and retrieve information as well as irritability.
B6 – Nature’s Ritalin?
Supplementation increases focus, clarity of thought and concentration. Research has found it to be helpful for treating ADHD, dyslexia, as well as depression and anxiety. ADHD medication such as Ritalin increases the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine which reduces ADHD symptoms.
Low dopamine and serotonin have been found to be one of the contributing factors among ADHD children. Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Pennsylvania supplemented B6 to ADHD children to determine if it increased their serotonin levels and decreased their symptoms of ADHD enough to be considered significant. Indeed it did. Several studies, such as one from the University of Michigan have found B6 to be as effective as Ritalin.
While these studies are preliminary studies and further research is required, the early reports are promising. It should be mentioned not to supplement large doses of B6 to your child without consulting a nutritionist or a functional/naturopathic doctor since high doses can cause nerve damage.
Brains Scans, Blood Flow and ADHD Children – A Simple Solution?
Did you know that brain scans that were performed on children with ADHD detected there was decreased blood flow to the brain–something magnesium/B6 increases? Nutrition is not always as simple as taking one missing nutrient because many nutrients work together to be properly metabolized and absorbed.
B6 and Magnesium – Fric and Frac
B6 and magnesium are an example of this. B6 aids in the absorption of magnesium into the blood cells. Without B6, magnesium will just remain mostly in the blood serum and never get into the red blood cells.
Several studies have been performed on children with ADHD and learning differences with B6 supplementation. The best results however, were in which children received combination B6/Magnesium therapy. Reduction in hyperactivity as well as other ADHD symptoms were visible among teachers, parents and researchers. Could this be in part due to the effect of increased blood flow to the brain–never mind the fact that B6 increases serotonin and dopamine?
In fact, when a child has adequate B6 levels, magnesium absorption is so much better that the magnesium dose usually has to be lowered. Magnesium is known as the ‘relaxation mineral’ because of its calming effect on the nervous system and brain. Deficiencies can also sufficient lead to ADHD symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, insomnia and even violent behaviour.
Dietary Sources of B6 – fish, beef, liver, organ meats, poultry, potatoes and vegetables.
Folic Acid – Vitamin B9 for ADHD
By now you likely feel like a brain chemistry connoisseur and you know that low levels of serotonin and dopamine are influential in treating ADHD. B9 or folic acid aids in improving concentration, attentiveness as well as managing impulsivity. Folic acid is key since it is also needed for serotonin to be manufactured. It also assists with blood flow to the brain in that it is required for DNA synthesis and red blood cell formation.
Dietary Sources of B9 (folic acid) – Dark leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, dried beans, citrus and avocado
Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 is known as the energy vitamin because when we are deficient it makes us feel exhausted as well as depressed. However, deficiency can also affect your child’s brain and cognition. Insufficient amounts are associated with poor memory, inability to concentrate, confusion which often presents in children with ADHD and learning differences as being absent-minded and disorganized.
B12 also helps produce and manage neurotransmitters, metabolizing those oh-so-important essential fatty acids as well as manufacturing the fatty coating on your nerve cells. Imagine wiring (your electrical or your nervous system) with no cover! Bad news entirely. Poor memory, ability to concentrate, confusion that often Supplementation can produce a sense of focus, increased energy and a better mood.
Dietary Sources of B12– Beef, mackerel, sardines, other fish, eggs, dairy products
I always advise parents to first try dietary sources of B vitamins before supplementing. Supplements work differently than when they are packaged the way that nature intended. Their effectiveness is also greatly impacted by the quality of the supplement. The cheapest, generic brand might work fine with acetaminophen but this is not the case with supplements.
Optimum Nutrition for the Brain – Patrick Holford
Superimmunity for Kids: What to Feed Your Children to Keep Them Healthy Now, and Prevent Disease in Their Future by Leo Galland and Dian Dincin Buchman
The LCP Solution: The Remarkable Nutritional Treatment for ADHD, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia by B. Jacqueline Stordy Phd, Malcolm J. Nicholl
Cure Your Child with Food: The Hidden Connection Between Nutrition and Childhood Ailments by Kelly Dorfman (Paperback)
Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders by Kenneth Bock, Cameron Stauth