Omega-3 and B vitamins in cognitive health


Our body needs vitamins to grow, develop and function normally. Vitamins are a group of substances that help us to get energy from the food we eat; they are important in iron and calcium absorption, also for nervous, digestive, and immune systems; and they are needed to form new cells, especially red blood cells. Humans require adequate amounts of 13 vitamins: four fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and nine water soluble vitamins, which comprise vitamin C and the eight B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12). Our body can only make vitamins D and K, we get the rest from foods: although most vitamins are derived from plants, we often consume them indirectly from foods of animal origin (meats, dairy and eggs).

The group of B vitamins performs essential roles in cellular functioning and they are required for every aspect of brain function. In older adults with mild impairment of the cognitive healh, treatment with B vitamins can reduce the rate of brain atrophy, especially in those with elevated levels of homocysteine (a protein that raises the risk for brain atrophy, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s Disease). But, and this is very important, when levels of omega-3 fatty acid are low, B vitamins treatment has no significant effect on cognitive health.

Omega-3 status interacts with the effects of B vitamins treatment, so that only when omega-3 levels are high, B vitamins interact to slow cognitive decline. Hence, the cognitive effects of B vitamins depend on the omega-3 concentrations.

So, the first thing that we should do to enhance the potential benefits of B vitamins on cognitive functions is to achieve high levels of omega-3.