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Can an Orange a Day Keep Dementia Away?

Vitamin C is beneficial for your skin, immune system, and much more. Recent studies link a high vitamin C intake with improved mental function and reduced memory loss. Find out more below.
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One substance that has received a lot of attention in medical studies is vitamin C. Vitamin C is known for its immune-protecting abilities, but vitamin C is so much more than the vitamin you need to fight off colds. Vitamin C also has many other beneficial properties, including the production of energy, the stimulation of cell growth, antioxidant properties, and maybe even memory-protecting abilities.

Some studies have indicated that vitamin C may be helpful in preventing the onset of dementia and other cognitive disorders and protecting mental clarity and memory.

Read on to see how vitamin C can benefit your memory- if at all.

Studies on Vitamin C and Dementia

In 2000, University of Hawaii researchers published the results of a 10 year-long study investigating the long-term benefit of supplementing with vitamin E and C and its role in memory protection. The study followed over 3,000 Japanese-American men from 1982 to 1993. The men recorded their dietary intake of vitamin C and E, and every few years the men took several memory tests.

At the end of the study, the men showed the highest protection against vascular dementia and mixed dementia. The men had an 88 percent lower chance of developing vascular dementia and mixed dementia. Men who took supplements for longer were more protected against memory problems. Vascular dementia is memory loss related to strokes and mixed dementia is triggered by other health problems, including Parkinson’s disease.

In 2011, researchers from Lund University found that vitamin C actually dissolves the toxic protein that accumulates in the brain with Alzheimer’s disease. Ordinarily, Alzheimer’s causes a build-up of plaque that contributes to nerve cell death. The cells that die the fastest when this occurs are the memory cells.

In the study, researchers gave vitamin C supplements to mice, who showed significant memory improvement after the treatments. The researchers also found that the vitamin C did not have to come from fresh, fruit sources. Some mice were given day-old dehydroascorbic acid from orange juice, which also benefited the mice’s brain health.

In 2012, researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center reviewed past studies on vitamin C from past years. The researchers found that in general, it is the antioxidants found in Vitamin C that were usually identified as the beneficial compounds in fighting brain oxidation and memory loss.

The researchers found that vitamin C has a protective effect on the brain, but extra-large doses of the vitamin seem to have no effect on preventing or reversing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia more than the daily recommended value (DRV) for vitamin C (typically about 75 mg daily). This study also found that the rate of dementia was lowest among men who had taken vitamins C and E the longest, which suggests that long-term use is important for helping to preserve mental function in old age.

Another study from 2012 conducted by the University of Ulm looked at the levels of beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10, and lycopene in the blood of participants with Alzheimer’s disease in comparison with participants without memory problems.

The researchers found that participants with the lowest levels of these vitamins and compounds were more likely to have memory problems.

How Vitamin C Prevents Memory Loss

Dementia and memory loss is a neurodegenerative disease. The changes in the brain occur due to three conditions.

Causes of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyloid-beta-plaque build-up
  • Reduction in brain synapses
  • Deterioration of fibrilla

Most researchers believe that these symptoms are caused by a variety of factors, but one of the most compelling causes appears to be oxidation in the brain. Oxidative stress restricts the use of oxygen in the body.

Basically, this means that your body slowly suffocates to death. Oxidative stress causes the formation of amyloid plaque lumps, which contribute to nerve-cell death. The first center of the brain to deteriorate when this occurs is the memory center of the brain. Vitamin C can prevent this issue from occurring in two ways.

Antioxidant Powers

Although most people typically think about red fruits and vegetables as high in antioxidants, vitamin C is actually quite high in antioxidants as well. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2003 looked at the role of vitamin C and antioxidant power.

Although the study found nothing definitive about vitamin C, it contains high levels of antioxidants that can be beneficial for a variety of health conditions. The researchers found that vitamin C is an electron donor, meaning that it can give one of its electrons to another compound, stabilizing it and preventing oxidation. When the electron is donated to another compound, energy is released, which boosts cellular function at all levels.

Plaque-Destroying Ability

The study on mice from 2011 found that vitamin C was particularly effective in destroying the plaque build-up in the brain. This may be related to the antioxidant features of vitamin C, but more research is necessary to discover exactly how vitamin C can benefit memory and patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Vitamin C Dosage

Studies have shown that taking excessively high doses of vitamin C is probably not necessary for protecting the brain and preserving cognitive function. Studies on high doses of vitamin C (500 mg or more daily) have shown no serious health risks (except for study participants with health problems like hemochromatosis).

In fact, a study called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that taking 500 mg of vitamin C daily for 6 years along with a few other minerals and vitamins was able to reduce eye Age-related macular degeneration by about 28 percent.

Most studies have found that doses between 75 and 100 mg daily can provide protective benefits on the brain. It is up to you to decide if you want to experiment with higher doses to protect your memory.

Possible Risks and Side Effects

There are a few potential risks and side effects of taking high doses of vitamin C supplements. You may want to monitor your vitamin C intake carefully or discuss your dosage with a doctor if you have the following conditions:

Diabetes

According to a study from 2004 conducted by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition found that women with diabetes who took high doses of vitamin C in supplement form (more than 300 mg daily) were more likely to have cardiovascular disease and increased mortality endpoints. The same risks were not seen in women who ate vitamin C from natural food sources.

Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis is simply iron overload. This condition causes your body to absorb abnormal levels of iron. Vitamin C also boosts iron intake, which could mean that individuals with Hemochromatosis could quickly see iron toxicity with high doses of vitamin C.

Pregnancy

There is some evidence that states that high does of vitamin C (over 1000 mg daily) could result in a suppression of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is necessary for supporting the life of a fetus before the placenta is developed. In rats, high doses of vitamin C were able to abort babies in early stages of pregnancy.

A study on human woman of high-risk pregnancies from 1943 found that giving women supplements of vitamin C and vitamin K was able to help high-risk women maintain the pregnancy. The exact dosage is unknown, since the study is so old. If you are concerned, stay away from high doses of vitamin C until the second trimester of pregnancy.

Other Possible Side Effects
  • Kidney stones
  • Indigestion
  • Iron poisoning
  • Possible triggering of hexavalent chromium (a cancer-causing compound)

How Helpful is Vitamin C for Memory?

Researchers are unsure how helpful vitamin C is for preserving memory function. Many studies show that vitamin C can provide antioxidant benefits in the brain as well as help destroy plaque in the brain that can contribute to memory loss.

However, other studies show that individuals with a higher intake of vitamin C are no more or less likely to have memory problems than anyone else. In general, it appears that a regular intake of less than 300 mg, but more than 75 mg of vitamin C has protective and healing effects on the brain.

However, if you are looking for a supplement that will definitively prevent and heal dementia and other degenerative brain diseases, vitamin C is not it. If you do choose to supplement with vitamin C, the healthiest sources come from food.

Foods High in Vitamin C
  • Red peppers
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Green peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes

Other Compounds Beneficial for the Brain

Since vitamin C is not the be-all, end-all for brain health, it is important to ensure you are eating a variety of compounds that will boost your brain power and fight off memory loss. The following 8 compounds have studies backing their effectiveness for treating memory problems. Add these compounds to your diet in supplement or natural food form to ensure your memory stays sharp for years to come.

Choline

This strange-sounding compound is one food that will boost your memory and fight dementia. Choline is naturally found in foods like seafood, liver, eggs, beans, and chicken. Choline levels are tied to better cognitive function in participants who take memory tests. This data is based on a 10-year study of over 1,000 men and women. The men and women took memory tests at the start of the study and the end. Participants with the highest level of choline in their bodies scored in the top 25 percent on memory tests.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an important nutrient for brain health. The above study from the University of Hawaii found that men who consumed high levels of vitamin E (along with vitamin C) had better memories and cognitive performance. Huperzine A Huperzine A is an alkaloid found in the Huperzia serrata plant native to India and Asia. The alkaloid is beneficial in promoting cognitive function. A study from 1999 conducted by Xiaoshan Mental Hospital in China found that supplementing with Huperzine A improved memory scores and language scores in teens.

Lecithin

Lecithin is a fatty compound found in many animal and plant sources. The compound is typically used as an emulsifier, but is also available in supplement form. Common sources are egg and soy products. A 1983 study published in the “American Journal of Psychiatry” showed that supplementing with lecithin was able to boost cognitive scores in a variety of areas.

Zinc and Iodine

These two minerals are essential for a healthy brain. Studies show that children with low iodine and zinc levels have lower scores in school and on other memory tests.

Reduce Your Dementia Risk
  • Supplement for brain health
  • Exercise frequently
  • Keep mentally active
  • Sleep well
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Socialize regularly
  • Don’t smoke

Eat Your Vitamins and Boost Your Brain Power

By consuming the right vitamins and minerals, you protect your brain and prevent the development of degenerative brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin C may not be a miracle supplement for stopping the progression of dementia, but it can help protect your mental health and memories. Combined with several other memory-boosting supplements and vitamins, vitamin C can be a powerful agent in keeping your mind sharp and ready for anything.

Sources


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110818101645.htm

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/250230.php

http://aja.sagepub.com/content/28/2/120.abstract

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