Two main groups of vitamins and minerals are ESSENTIAL for the brain, and many people-including those who live in wealthy, developed countries-do not get enough of these nutrients, a study reveals.

brain foodResearchers from the King Edward VII Hospital in London, England, examined clinical trials, research reviews, medical-journal editorials, and scientific meetings during the last 20 years to identify the nutrients that regulate brain function. The water-soluble B-complex vitamins plus vitamin C, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, and zinc
are the two most relevant nutrient groups in brain function
, according to the doctors.

The scientists suggested four ways the nutrients affect the brain. First, the B-complex and C vita- mins—which act together in a chain of chemical reactions—help make the communication chemicals (neurotransmitters) of the central nervous system. Second, the B vitamins help nerve-cell membranes quickly send and receive neurotransmitters. Third, both nutrient groups help convert food into the unique molecule (adenosine triphosphate, or ATP) that all cells use for energy, especially fuel-hungry brain cells. And fourth, several recent studies showed that B vitamins reduced homocysteine, a sign of inflammation that is a risk factor for blood-vessel disease.

Researchers said that although the brain accounts for 3% of body weight, it consumes 25% of blood glucose—a main source of energy—when the body is at rest. Doctors also noted that a byproduct of vitamin B1, thiamine triphos- phate, occurs only in nerve-cell membranes, and that brain tissue contains the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body.

The body stores only small quantities of the water-soluble B-complex and C vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, and young and middle-aged adults with demanding lifestyles, and the elderly, may need more of these nutrients to maintain optimum brain function, the doctors said.

The B-complex vitamins in the studies included B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridox- ine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin).

Reference: The Journal of International Medical Research: 2007, Vol. 35, No. 1, 1-19.

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