How Vitamin B6 Boosts Memory
Failing to get enough vitamin B6 can bring psychological distress and suboptimal brain performance. You are likely to be more irritable, depressed, angry, fatigued, confused, less able to concentrate, and your memory may suffer, according to recent research. No question, vitamin B6 can have a profound effect on neurological functioning. For one reason, the vitamin is needed to synthesize neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, and taurine. Research suggests that a lack of B6, in particular, leads to lower serotonin levels in the brain, and to consequent drops in mood, possibly even severe depression. In animals B6 deficiencies are tied to central nervous system damage.
MEMORY Loss ANTIDOTE
Although B6 is important for good mental functioning at all ages, you especially need it to keep ‘memory intact as you get older. Dutch psychologists in a double-blind controlled study have found that giving only 20 milligrams of B6 daily to healthy men ages seventy to seventy-nine for three months slightly improved their long-term memory. Specifically, the takers of B6 were better able to transfer newly learned verbal information into their long-term memory. Further, there was a direct correlation between a rise in B6 blood status and increased memory function. The conclusion: Taking vitamin B6 may reduce age-related memory decline. However, the researchers also noted that extremely high blood levels of B6 may impair memory, so doses should be moderate, not excessive.
Echoing the impact of B6 on memory is Tufts University research by Katherine Tucker that links high B6 blood levels with better memory among seventy middle-aged and elderly men. Men with high B6 were dramatically better in recalling sequenced lists of numbers, words, and matched items. In a test of so-called “working memory”—the simultaneous storage and processing of new information—men with the highest blood B6 scored 30 percent higher in recalling numbers backwards, regardless of age. They also recalled the most items. In a larger follow-up study, Tufts researchers found that older men with high B6 also had better “delayed recall”—the ability to recall the details of a story read to them.
Interestingly, Tufts investigators found B6 a stronger memory booster in middle-aged men than in older men. On one memory test, middle-aged men highest in B6 had double the scores of younger men with the lowest B6. Indeed, B6 status predicted memory success. The more B6 in the blood, the better the men’s memory, regardless of other factors, such as education. Also, the memory performance of those with the least B6 was not abnormally low. It’s just that the men with the high B6 did much better.
Further, nearly one-half of the men in the study had low blood levels of B6, suggesting widespread subtle deficits in memory that could be easily corrected.
How does B6 boost memory? One way: by helping lower homocysteine, a factor in the blood, tied to various mental disturbances including intellectual decline and dementia. However, that is not the entire explanation, says Tufts Dr. Tucker. B6 boosts memory, regardless of its control of homocysteine, she has found. “I don’t think we know right now the exact mechanism by which B6 helps regulate memory.” She speculates it could have something to do with B,’s role in the metabolism of amino acids.
How much? B6 can be tricky for the brain, since both deficiencies and excesses can produce neurological disturbances. Experts suggest from 10 to 50 milligrams of B6 per day to help keep homocysteine levels down. As little as 300 to 500 milligrams daily of B6 might cause neuropathy in some individuals, although most cases result from more than that. Considered a safe dose: no more than 200 milligrams per day.