Some vitamins get ALL the attention. Take vitamin D, for example. That headline hog is in the news nearly once a week with yet another breakthrough discovery.
Meanwhile, some vitamins can’t seem to BUY attention. They’re cast aside and forgotten. Yet they’re every bit as essential.
I get it. Vitamin D IS fantastic. Just take a look at the vitamin’s impressive resume. But it’s also not the only necessary nutrient on the shelf.
Now new research reveals how one of those often-overlooked compounds shines where it matters most. In fact, vitamin A may turn out to be your brain’s best friend.
Researchers say unassuming “A” might even be the MISSING LINK for memory protection.
Synapses hold the secret
I’m going to go out on a limb, and guess you’ve never heard of dendritic spines before. Most folks haven’t. But they play a crucial role in how your brain functions and operates.
On the other hand, you probably HAVE heard of synapses. Those are the connections through which nerve impulses are sent and received. They allow information and signals to make the jump from one cell to the next.
Dendritic spines are a little piece of each synapse. Every thought you have… every decision you make… every memory you store and retrieve… everything you learn… all rely on dendritic spines.
When we learn, they grow and change shape in healthy ways in response. But when we have disorders such as depression or diseases such as dementia, they can also change form in unhealthy ways and shrink in response.
For years, much of those changes were shrouded in mystery. Scientists knew when and how they happened. But they didn’t know a whole lot about what we could do to enhance them… protect them… and keep them healthy beyond the usual advice about brain health.
But all that just changed. Because now, we finally have some insight on one specific action that could help alter those dendritic spines in all the right ways. And it comes down to that vitamin A I mentioned a little earlier.
Make it A to preserve precious memory
In the new study, scientists found that retinoic acid – aka vitamin A – helps those all-important dendritic spines in two key ways:
- It increases the SIZE of the spines
- It boosts the STRENGTH of the signals they pass
This was a lab experiment, not a clinical trial. Which means we need more research. But the results are already exciting, and this isn’t the first time we’ve had a hint of Vitamin A’s memory benefits.
In 2015 researchers found evidence that vitamin A may enhance memory in the aging brain. At that time, they even speculated that raising A levels with supplements may turn out to be a key way to help ward off age-related cognitive impairment.
I know. Mainstream support for a supplement? You could have knocked ME over with a feather, too.
There are two primary forms of memory-preserving vitamin A that we can get from diet.
The first… found mostly in plants… is the beta-carotene that your body has to convert into vitamin A. You’ll find it in foods like sweet potatoes, kale, and carrots.
But the conversion, in this case, isn’t an especially efficient process. One analysis found that our bodies convert beta carotene into A at about a 12:1 ratio.
In other words, every 12 units of beta-carotene give you just a single unit of vitamin A.
There’s another catch, too. Depending on its source, you may not even absorb most of the beta-carotene, so your body never even has the chance to convert it.
This brings us to the other form of vitamin A. Fish, dairy, meat, and eggs contain preformed vitamin A, which is a much more direct way to get it. You can also find memory-enhancing A as a supplement. But keep in mind a good multivitamin will often contain what you need.