B is for Brain

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Folic acid and other B vitamins are essential for optimal brain health throughout life, according to a review of studies by researchers at the University of Ulster, UK. Studies show that folic acid and other B vitamins help regulate neurotransmitters in the brain and influence neurodevelopment and behavior in offspring of pregnant women depending on dietary and supplemental intake during gestation. Folate is directly involved in DNA methylation, which is one of the epigenetic factors that underlie fetal programming and brain development. Optimal B vitamin status is linked to better cognitive health in ageing, as well. Supplementation with folic acid and related B vitamins for at least two years reduces global and regional brain atrophy, as measured by MRI scans in seniors.

A study from Harvard Medical School found that suboptimal intake of folate-rich foods increases the risk for dementia.

McGarel C, Pentieva K, Strain J, et al: Emerging roles for folate and related B-vitamins in brain health across the life cycle. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2014; November 5th.
Agnew-Blais J, Wasserheil-Smoller S, Kang J, et al: Folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 intake and mild cognitive impairment and probably dementia in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2014;September 5th.

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