Omega-3 fatty acids
Tatiana Ayazo/RD.com The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have shown promising brain-building effects. Some studies have suggested people who eat fatty fish high in omega-3s have more gray matter in their brains to keep their minds strong. The thing is, the benefits haven’t held up in large, controlled experiments, says Arjun Masurkar, MD, PhD, a neurologist at NYU Langone’s Center for Cognitive Neurology. For instance, an NIH-backed study of more than 3,500 older adults found that taking omega-3 fatty acids for five years had no effect on cognitive function. Still, there likely isn’t harm in trying. “Omega-3s may have other health benefits that might be indirectly related to the brain, like on the heart. The heart and brain are connected,” says Dr. Masurkar. No need to stop them if you and your doctor have already decided they might be beneficial, just don’t expect a memory miracle. Don’t miss these other secrets vitamin manufacturers don’t want you to know.
Tatiana Ayazo/RD.com Vitamin B12 comes mostly from animal products, so vegetarians and vegans might be low, while other people—especially as they age—have trouble absorbing it. Your brain requires B12 to function correctly, so a deficiency is one of the first things doctors look at for memory problems. (Watch out for these other 11 silent signs you’re low on vitamin B12.) If a blood test indicates you’re low, you’ll likely have a hard time getting your daily needs from diet, so you’ll need to take either a B12 shot or at-home supplements to bring your levels back up. A normal level is between 200 and 900 picograms per milliliter, but “even if it’s 300, which is in the normal range, we recommend supplementation,” says neurologist Daniel Kaufer, MD, director of the University of North Carolina’s Memory Disorders program. “It’s not just about how much is enough, but having the optimal level as opposed to normal vs. abnormal.” If you do have a healthy level, though, extra B12 won’t make your memory any stronger.