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Certain vitamins and fatty acids have been said to slow or prevent memory loss. The long list of potential solutions includes vitamins like vitamin B12, herbal supplements such as ginkgo biloba, and omega-3 fatty acids. But can a supplement really boost your memory?

Much of the evidence for these potential memory-boosting supplements isn’t very strong. Here, we discuss what recent clinical studies have to say about vitamins and memory loss.

Scientists have long been researching the relationship between low levels of B12 (cobalamin) and memory loss. However, if you get an adequate amount of B12, there is no evidence that higher intake has positive effects.

B12 deficiency is most common in people with bowel or stomach issues, or strict vegetarians. The risk of B12 deficiency also increases with age. This is due to the increased prevalence of low stomach acid in older adults.

The diabetes drug metformin has also been shown to lower B12 levels. Other drugs like proton pump inhibitors, anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone, and birth control can lower B12 levels.

You should be able to get enough B12 naturally, as it’s found in foods such as fish and poultry. Fortified breakfast cereal is a good option for vegetarians.

However, people with certain medical conditions, those who are on certain medications, or people who have low stomach acid may not be able to properly absorb B12 from food and may need a dietary supplement to maintain adequate levels.

Shop for vitamin B12 supplements online.

There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin E can benefit the mind and memory in older people. A 2014 study in the journal JAMA found that high amounts of vitamin E can help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Participants took doses of 2,000 international units (IU) per day. However, this amount may be unsafe for certain people, according to Dr. Gad Marshall of Harvard Medical School.

Taking more than 400 IU a day is especially risky for people with cardiovascular disease, especially for those on blood thinners. Some studies have shown that supplemental vitamin E may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Regardless of your age or condition, you should be able to get enough vitamin E from your food. Ask your doctor if you’re interested in additional amounts. Vitamin E deficiency is rare, although it may occur in people on low fat diets.

The vitamin is found in:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetable oils
  • vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli

Shop for vitamin E supplements online.

When it comes to ginkgo biloba, both older and more recent studies concur: The supplement doesn’t seem to slow memory loss or prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

There isn’t much evidence to suggest a relationship between omega-3 and memory, either. However, research is currently in progress.

A 2015 review found that taking supplements with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) resulted in significant improvements in episodic memory outcomes in adults with memory concerns.

DHA is one main type of omega-3 fatty acid, and EPA is another. DHA and EPA are most concentrated in seafood such as salmon and mackerel.

For young and older people alike, it’s valuable to get your dietary vitamins from the food you eat. Supplements can fill in the gaps, but check with your doctor before you go over the recommended daily intake.

No matter your age, the best way to combat memory decline is to eat well and exercise your body and your brain. The Mediterranean diet is a good source of all the vitamins your body needs.

The Mediterranean diet has been cited as a way to improve memory. The hallmarks of the diet include:

  • mostly plant-based foods
  • limiting (or completely cutting out) red meat
  • eating fish
  • using liberal amounts of olive oil to prepare meals

Diets that are similar to the Mediterranean diet include the MIND diet as well as the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) diet. Both diets have been found to reduce the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.

The MIND diet, in particular, emphasizes the consumption of green, leafy vegetables and plant-based food in addition to the high protein and olive oil recommendations of the Mediterranean diet.

Having a strong support network and being engaged in your local community have been suggested as ways to delay or prevent dementia. Establishing healthy sleep habits can also protect your brain.

Studies continue to prove that routine physical exercise activates the brain in ways that other hobbies don’t. This can lead to improved memory and cognitive function over the long term.

You can improve your brain health by being more mindful of foods and habits that have been shown to damage it. Fried food has been linked to cardiovascular system damage, which affects the efficiency of the brain.

Many Alzheimer’s disease risk factors, such as poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, can be managed. Changing one of these risk factors may help delay the onset of dementia.