Essential, water-soluble vitamins key to the function of many enzymes and energy production.
Structure and function of brain cells.
Red blood cell and DNA formation.
Needed by every tissue in the body, including the brain.
In every dose
170mg + 75mcg
(equal to: a whole beef liver, 100 mussels, 3 chicken breasts, 9oz tuna steak, 7.5 pints of dairy milk, 10 cans of cooked salmon, and 10 double cheese burgers. Seriously. OR: 25 avocados, 20 bowls of fortified cereal, 12 medium baked potatoes, 3 cups of chickpeas, 150 cups of quinoa, 4 servings of fortified nutritional yeast, and 8 cups of almonds)
B vitamins help with normal mental performance, metabolism of stress hormones and energy.
B Vitamins are thought to prevent brain atrophy, which could help to keep the brain healthy in people with Alzheimer’s Disease, and reduce the risk of dementia and memory loss. It’s been shown to have potentially protective qualities against Parkinson’s disease, as sufferers have been shown to have significantly lower levels than healthy individuals.
What’s in it for my brain?
B vitamins are needed to generate energy in our cells. So, they’re like the fuel that gives our brain cells the energy they need to do their work.
B vitamins contribute to the structure and function of brain cells through the making of cholesterol, amino acids, phospholipids, and fatty acids. They also contribute to the synthesis and metabolism of steroid hormones, and vitamin D.
B vitamins are antioxidants, and are essential for normal brain and nervous system function, cell signalling and DNA repair and could play an important role in mental health.
B6 helps to make neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid, which all regulate our emotions.
Low levels of B Vitamins can double your chances of developing a mood disorder such as depression as they affect production of serotonin and dopamine - chemicals in the brain that regulate mood.
Essential for haemoglobin formation
Protects eyes from free radical damage (antioxidant)
Releasing energy from food
Needed for the breakdown of fats
Limited evidence that it may benefit skin, hair and nails
Plays well with
B vitamins are hard to find on a plant based diet, and are needed every day because it can’t be stored in the body. Taking B vitamins together ensures maximum energy benefit.
Iron and B vitamins work together to form haemoglobin, so it’s important to consume both.
They are also essential for making sure the body uses folic acid effectively, so consuming them together makes sure this can happen.
The brain needs to create neurotransmitters in order for nerve cells to transmit signals. Pantothenic acid (B5) has an essential role in this. And, in a study that supplemented thiamine (B1) alongside antidepressants, symptoms were alleviated faster.
Vitamin B6 may help to improve brain function and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease; one clinical trial found that vitamin supplementation with folic acid, B6 and B12 slowed shrinking of the brain over two years in areas of the brain that are associated with cognitive decline.
A study of migraine-sufferers showed that daily supplementation of vitamin B2 cut migraine frequency in half.
Here’s a handful of relevant scientific studies on B vitamins.
Douaud, G., Refsum, H., de Jager, C. A., Jacoby, R., Nichols, T. E., Smith, S. M., & Smith, A. D. (2013). Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(23), 9523-9528.
Herrmann, W., Lorenzl, S., & Obeid, R. (2007). Review of the role of hyperhomocysteinemia and B-vitamin deficiency in neurological and psychiatric disorders--current evidence and preliminary recommendations. Fortschritte der Neurologie-psychiatrie, 75(9), 515-527.
Folstein, M., Liu, T., Peter, I., Buel, J., Arsenault, L., Scott, T., & Qiu, W. W. (2007). The homocysteine hypothesis of depression. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(6), 861-867.
Shen, L. (2015). Associations between B vitamins and Parkinson’s disease. Nutrients, 7(9), 7197-7208.
Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68.
Pitkin, R. M., Allen, L. H., Bailey, L. B., & Bernfield, M. (2000). Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, Pantothenic acid, biotin and choline. Washington, DC.
Oulhaj, A., Jernerén, F., Refsum, H., Smith, A. D., & de Jager, C. A. (2016). Omega-3 fatty acid status enhances the prevention of cognitive decline by B vitamins in mild cognitive impairment. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 50(2), 547-557.