After age 50, many people don’t absorb B12from food as well as they used to because they no longer produce sufficient stomach acid or they’re taking acid-suppressing medications to prevent reflux. A shortfall of B12can lead to memory problems or, in severe cases, a temporary form of dementia, warns Tangney. (The dementia is reversed when the deficiency is fixed.) Conversely, higher blood levels of B12in older adults are associated with slower rates of cognitive decline, according to research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Several of the other B vitamins are important for brain health, too. A recent report from the Oregon Brain Aging Study found that older adults who had higher blood levels of five B vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folate and B12) had better cognitive function than those with lower levels. Folate, B6and B12, in particular, work together to eliminate homocysteine, an amino acid that circulates in your blood and at elevated levels is harmful to your brain as well as your heart. “Homocysteine is sort of the equivalent of factory waste, and you need to sweep it out of your bloodstream,” says Barnard. Consuming foods that are rich in folate (broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens, asparagus, beans, peas, cantaloupe, citrus fruits and fortified cereals), B6(garbanzo beans, baked potatoes, sunflower seeds, winter squash, bananas, sockeye salmon, chicken and turkey) and B12(fish, caviar, yogurt, eggs, chicken and B12-fortified nonfat milk or soy milk) can help keep your brain in good working order.
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