These 4 Vitamin Deficiencies Can Raise Your Dementia Risk, Experts Warn

Eat these brain-boosting foods to keep your mind sharp as you age.

Eating a well-balanced, nutritionally packed diet is one of the best things you can do for your physical health. Experts say your cognitive health can also get a boost from getting the right vitamins and minerals—and alhough no one vitamin or supplement can prevent the development of dementia, deficiencies of certain vitamins have been linked with an increased risk of dementia. Read on to learn which four vitamins are considered crucial to your cognitive health, and which foods can help you get enough of each.

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Vitamin B-1

Foods Highest in Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)- top view
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Thiamin, also known as vitamin B-1, is a water soluble vitamin found in fortified breakfast cereals, fish, pork, beans and lentils, peas, yogurt, and sunflower seeds. Though thiamin deficiencies are considered somewhat rare in the U.S., they are more likely to occur in people with chronic alcoholism.

Those with a thiamin deficiency are more likely to develop symptoms of dementia, the Mayo Clinic warns. However, more research is needed to determine whether this is an independent risk factor, or if it's connected by its association with excessive drinking—a factor already known to raise your risk.

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Vitamin B-6

Foods with Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)- Top view
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Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B-6, is most often found in poultry, fish, potatoes, chickpeas, bananas, leafy greens, and fortified cereals. Known for helping to maintain normal brain development and function, it's an essential vitamin for staving off dementia. Adequate levels of vitamin B-6 are also crucial for a healthy nervous system and immune system.

Vitamin B-6 deficiencies typically appear alongside other B vitamin deficiencies, such as folic acid (vitamin B-9) and vitamin B-12, the Mayo Clinic notes.

Vitamin B-12


Cobalamin, or vitamin B-12, is most often found in animal products such as meat, fish, yogurt, eggs, and cheese. This important plays a key role in forming red blood cells, as well as in the development of healthy brain and nerve cells—all of which can have a protective effect on your memory.

While vitamin B-12 deficiencies are linked with a higher risk of dementia, there is no concrete evidence that taking B-12 supplements can reduce your risk, according to the Mayo Clinic. Still, getting adequate B-12 has other benefits, including staving off anemia, promoting bone health, providing an energy boost, and protecting your heart.

Vitamin D

hand holding vitamin d capsule

Calciferol, or vitamin D, is naturally produced within the body following exposure to sunlight. However, you can also get it from certain foods such as mushrooms, fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified cereals.

A 2014 study published in the journal Neurology found that individuals with "severely" low levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's than those with adequate levels. While more research is needed to determine a causal relationship between this deficiency and dementia, boosting your intake of both sunlight and vitamin D-rich foods may help to lower your dementia risk—not to mention protect your bone health and immune system.

Speak with your doctor or nutritionist if you believe you may be suffering from a vitamin deficiency, especially if you notice signs of dementia or other cognitive health problems.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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