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L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Certified Gerontologist

Vitamins for Brain Health and Longevity

January 14, 2019

It seems “dietary supplements”— a product you take to supplement your diet, containing one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins and/or minerals, herbs or other botanicals, as well as amino acids and other substances), have been under fire lately in the popular press. What makes me madder than being awakened from a delicious nap, a transgression warranting bodily harm, is when these journalists need a headline, and don’t read (or, understand) the actual science. Thank goodness a highly respected researcher, Dr. Bruce Ames, who has published more than 500 scientific papers in his almost seven decades as a scientist and director of Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (associated with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital), has set the record straight. He has given us all some great news about how to slow down the aging clock, increase our longevity, and add quality time to our lives. Following ten years of research in his lab, and supported by a bushel basket of evidence published by other scientists, Dr. Ames has identified 30 known vitamins and essential minerals, along with 11 additional substances not currently classified as vitamins, which when taken at optimal levels are the best supplements for brain health. He says they should be called “longevity vitamins” for their potential to “prolong healthy aging.” (In fact, this is the title of his article for the National Academy of Sciences.)

Ames found that 70 percent of Americans are deficient in one or more of the vitamins and minerals vital to good health. Not so deficient as to put our health in jeopardy, like contracting rickets or scurvy, but like a dripping faucet that wears away the porcelain on the tub over time, the lack of vitamins and minerals slowly robs us of our vitality and speeds up the decline of our body. It seems Dr. Ames found even minor deficiencies can impact our long-term health. 

To make it easy, here is a list all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients the latest science suggests we need:*

Vitamins: Biotin, Choline, Folic acid, Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenate (B5), Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K

Minerals: Calcium, Chloride, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Molybdenum, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Sulfur, Zinc

Other Nutrients: Alpha/beta carotene, Astaxanthin, Beta-cryptoxanthin, Ergothioneine, Lutein, Lycopene, Omega 3 EPA/DHA, PPQ, Queuine, Taurine, Zeaxanthin

Since any recommendations beyond eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats, and free of processed food, sugar, or refined carbohydrates, and drinking plenty of good quality water is beyond my area of expertise, I suggest finding a reputable nutritionist or nutritional counselor, someone trained not in “dieting” or weight loss, but health. Optimally, this person should be a Dietitian in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM) and/or a RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Look for those with a MS degree or PhD. in Nutrition.  Do your own research beforehand—know what foods are highest in the longevity nutrients. Ask the hard questions to ensure the dietitian you choose is adequately trained to recommend an eating plan and, more importantly, supplementation. I will continue this discussion in this month’s blogs and do my own research as well. My excitement at Dr. Ames’s finding has made it hard to peel me off the ceiling. Lately it feels as if lasting brain health for the all of us might truly be attainable now…just maybe.

Until next time…Be Vibrant!

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*Ames, Bruce N. (2018) Prolonging healthy aging: Longevity vitamins and proteins. Perspective of the National Academy of Science. 43:10836-10844.