Certain vitamins may help slow or prevent memory loss. The list of potential solutions includes nutrients like vitamin B12 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 say about vitamins and memory loss and look at other ways to support your memory.

Scientists have long been researching the relationship between low levels of B12 (cobalamin) and memory loss. However, even if you get an adequate amount of B12, there isn’t enough evidence that higher intake has positive effects.

B12 deficiency can be caused by not getting enough of the vitamin from food or by having difficulty absorbing it. This can be due to factors such as:

  • bowel or stomach issues
  • being a strict vegetarian
  • older age
  • having low stomach acid
  • taking certain medications such as metformin, prednisone, or some forms of birth control

You should be able to get enough B12 naturally, as it’s in foods like fish and poultry. Fortified breakfast cereal can be a good option for vegetarians. Ask your doctor whether you need a dietary supplement to maintain adequate levels.

Some evidence suggests that vitamin E can benefit the mind and memory of older people. However, more research is needed to understand whether the vitamin can actually help slow cognitive impairment related to conditions like dementia.

In any case, Vitamin E deficiency is rare, although it may occur in people on low fat diets.

Foods that contain vitamin E include:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • vegetable oils
  • vegetables, like spinach and broccoli

According to 2023 research, vitamin D may interfere with various brain signaling pathways associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

That said, more study on cells, animals, and humans is necessary to understand whether taking vitamin D supplements can actually improve memory.

You get vitamin D from exposure to the sun and from eating certain foods such as fatty fish or eggs. Some foods, like milk, may also be fortified with vitamin D.

Not getting enough of the vitamin can lead to vitamin D deficiency, which is why many people take supplements, especially in colder climates.

Research from 2022 suggests that omega-3 may help reduce symptoms of mild cognitive decline, which can include memory loss.

Another 2022 study also found that including omega-3 in your diet may result in better learning, memory, cognitive function, and increased blood flow to the brain.

Fish, seaweed, and fish oil supplements contain omega-3. Fish such as salmon and mackerel are the most abundant sources of omega-3, which includes docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

That said, more research is needed to conclude whether omega-3 supplementation can actually support better memory development.

While studies suggest some vitamins might be good for your brain, the research doesn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship with memory improvement.

For example, 2023 research suggests that taking a multivitamin or a supplement containing multiple vitamins or minerals may help improve memory in older adults. A 2024 study seems to support this finding.

That said, these studies didn’t examine the effect on younger people and didn’t look at specific vitamins. This means it isn’t clear what particular ingredient in the multivitamins had the observed effect.

One 2023 review examined current supplements available on the market that include at least one of 18 common ingredients. The research found either no evidence or limited evidence that the following ingredients support memory:

  • apoaequorin
  • coenzyme Q10
  • coffee extracts
  • L-theanine
  • omega-3
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B9
  • carnitine
  • ginkgo biloba
  • Huperzine A

In addition, it also found only limited evidence for memory from vitamins B12, D, and E.

The review did, however, find some more robust evidence that the following ingredients may have a positive effect on memory:

  • ashwagandha
  • choline
  • curcumin
  • ginger
  • Lion’s Mane
  • polyphenols
  • phosphatidylserine
  • turmeric

It’s important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor supplements the way it does medications, which means that consumers are responsible for researching the ingredients of any supplement they wish to take.

Since none of the research examined is absolutely definitive, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor or dietitian before trying any commercially available vitamin or supplement as a way to boost your memory.

While some vitamin supplements may help support cognitive function — for young and older people alike — getting your dietary vitamins from food may be more valuable. 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 address 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 can be a way to improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, including memory loss. The hallmarks of the diet include:

  • choosing 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 and the DASH diet. Both of these diets 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.

As long as your doctor supports it, taking certain vitamins or multivitamins isn’t going to hurt your brain. However, the evidence varies around whether it can help improve memory loss related to dementia.

Having a strong support network and being engaged in your local community may be just as important or even more significant when living with dementia as establishing healthy sleep habits, which can also protect your brain.

For example, 2023 research also shows that routine physical exercise can benefit people with Alzheimer’s and may lead to improved memory and cognitive function.

You can also improve your brain health by being more mindful of foods and habits shown to damage it. For example, there is a link between fried food and cardiovascular system damage, which affects the efficiency of the brain.

Eating a less nutritious diet and limited physical activity are some of the Alzheimer’s disease risk factors that people can address. Changing one of these risk factors may help delay the onset of dementia.

Some research suggests that certain vitamins, such as vitamins B12, D, E, and omega-3, might support good brain function, particularly in people living with dementia.

However, research has yet to definitively conclude that these or other supplements can directly boost your memory.

That said, many vitamins have multiple health benefits, so eating a balanced diet and taking supplements if needed can help you stay healthy overall.