Vitamins to Keep Your Brain From Shrinking

First, the bad news: As you grow older, your brain inevitably shrinks. At the same time it shrinks, the brain loses chunks of its mental capacity. And – no big surprise here — the smaller your brain, researchers believe, the fewer neuronal networks you have to work with when you are trying to create memories or deal with tasks that require intelligence.

So, your brain is slowly decreasing in size and there’s basically nothing you can do to totally stop the shrinkage. It’s an inevitable aspect of aging. Now for the good news…

But there is good news. Although you can’t keep your brain from growing smaller, researchers have found ways that can slow the size reduction and, in the process, reduce your risk for the type of severe memory loss that occurs during Alzheimer’s disease. One of the easiest and least expensive methods is to up your intake of certain vitamins.

The Vitamins That Produce This Benefit: The B Vitamins

A two-year study of more than 150 senior citizens over the age of 70 found that those taking a supplement containing 500 mcg of B12, 20 mg of B6 and 0.8 mg of folic acid experienced, on average, much less brain shrinkage than did those in a no-vitamin control group.

Impressively, the researchers found that the brain regions the vitamins protected included the areas where reduction in size is linked to Alzheimer’s disease – namely, a section called the entorhinal cortex and another called the hippocampus. On average, the B vitamins limited shrinkage during a two-year period to just one-half of one percent, a rate that fits within the normal range of aging. The people in the study who didn’t get the vitamins averaged a brain loss of 3.7 percenti.

Folks, that’s a huge difference. Makes me glad I’ve been taking B vitamins for a number of years. If you decide to do the same, I recommend taking additional B12 in tablets meant to dissolve under the tongue. The amount of B12 in a B multi is usually too low. I take 1000 mcg a day sublingually. There’s no known downside to taking B12 except it may raise your energy level a bit too high! If that happens, just reduce the dose.

Getting back to that study of 150 seniors, all of them had already been suffering mild cognitive impairment, a memory problem that signals greatly increased risk of developing full blown Alzheimer’s.

“This is strongly indicative that the B vitamins may be substantially slowing down or even potentially arresting the disease process in those with early stage cognitive decline. This is the first treatment that has been shown to potentially arrest Alzheimer’s related brain shrinkage,” says researcher David Smith of Oxfordii.

Other Factors

Besides B vitamins, researchers have found that certain healthy lifestyle habits may also reduce your brain shrinkage as you age.

In a study of people taking part in what is called the Framingham Offspring Cohort Study, scientists found that if you can avoid these habits and factors, you can reduce your chances of excessive brain shrinkageiii:

* Smoking cigarettes

* Becoming overweight or obese

* Having high blood pressure

* Suffering diabetes

The more than 1,300 adults in this seven-year study, who were, on average, age 54, were the children of people involved in the well-known Framingham heart study.

Those in the study who were suffering diabetes experienced the most significant shrinkage in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory. People who smoked displayed the greatest amount of general, overall brain tissue loss.

When the researchers gave cognitive tests to the subjects of the study, they found that overweight people had a significantly increased risk of testing poorly for what is called “executive function.” This refers to decision-making abilities, organizational skills and mental focus.

In the end, your own actions exert a great deal of influence on how your brain ages and shrinks. Neglecting a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just make you more vulnerable to an expanding waistline and chronic illnesses like diabetes, it also shrinks the odds of retaining more of your brain as you grow older.


  1. http://www.plosone.org/
  2. http://www.nutraingredients.com/
  3. http://www.neurology.org/