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Vitamins for Brain Development: How Do They Work?

Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD · Internal or General Medicine

Written by China Logarta · Updated May 02, 2022

    Vitamins for Brain Development: How Do They Work?

    Vitamins are organic compounds that the body needs to grow properly. Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B complex are all vitamins for brain development. Within the B complex are eight substances: vitamin B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B7 (biotin), B6 (pyroxidine), B9 (folate) and B12 (cobalamin). People usually derive these from food, but the body can produce some of them, like vitamins D and K. Others who don’t get enough nutrients from food try to compensate by taking supplements, although it has been shown that taking too-high doses of vitamins can be bad for you.

    What Are Vitamins for Brain Development?

    The B-Complex Vitamins

    • Vitamin B1 helps nerves send messages to the brain and functions in muscle contraction. It also helps maintain the way the brain works. A deficiency in this vitamin usually occurs in the brain of alcoholics, people suffering from HIV-AIDS and from gastrointestinal disease. In addition, it’s linked to cognitive decline and encephalopathy, which is a brain disease that changes its structure or function. Thiamin deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease both show cognitive deficits and lowered brain glucose metabolism, which is how the brain gets energy to perform its functions. 
    • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) plays a role in protecting against neuro disorders. Studies show that it reduces oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and neural cell death, all of which happen in Parkinson’s disease and migraines, for instance. Oxidative stress can cause harmful reactive chemical compounds in the brain.
    • Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acidis among the essential vitamins for brain development. It’s necessary for brain health in all age groups as it plays a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, which helps send messages between neurons.
    • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is also important as it keeps nerves healthy. However, a lack of this substance can lead to a higher risk for dementia and memory loss. Vitamin B12 supplements are touted for their ability to improve memory, but the proof to back this up is not strong enough.

    Other Vitamins for Brain Development

  • Vitamin C, also called ascorbate or ascorbic acid, serves as an antioxidant in the brain. It also helps produce norepinephrine from dopamine. More than that, a lack of vitamin C can lead to oxidative damage to lipids and proteins in the brain. Scurvy, an extreme vitamin C deficiency, is life-threatening.
  • Vitamin D is another one of the essential vitamins for brain development. If you don’t have enough of this substance diminish cognitive abilities. Sun exposure activates vitamin D, although this ability gets weaker as a person gets older. There are a lot of vitamin D receptors all over the brain, which were proven to have protective effects for the brain. 
  • What Else Helps With Brain Development?

    Other than vitamins, minerals and other compounds do help maintain brain health and function. These include zinc, magnesium and potassium. For instance, zinc helps neurons convey messages to each other, while a lack can lead to impaired protein synthesis in the brain. Meanwhile, magnesium functions in nerve transmission and brain-muscle coordination. It also fights neuronal cell death.

    Key Takeaway

    Vitamins for brain development include vitamin C, D and the B-complex. Their functions encompass synthesis of neurotransmitters, which are the brain’s chemical messengers, neuroprotection and prevention or slowing of cognitive impairment, dementia and other neurological diseases. We get our vitamins from food while others can be produced by the body. Brain health is important to maintain especially with the rise of neurological disorders and illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Other ailments include memory loss, cognitive decline, loss of neuronal plasticity. Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change in structure or function. This helps your brain form memories, learn skills and store information.

    Learn more about Child Nutrition here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Expertly reviewed by

    Dexter Macalintal, MD

    Internal or General Medicine

    Written by China Logarta · Updated May 02, 2022

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