Most people equate folic acid supplements with women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. This is due to the fact that folic acid has been proven to prevent certain birth defects. However, recent research has linked consuming an adequate amount of folic acid with the overall improvement of memory. But how can a simple compound affect something as complex as the memories we form and hold onto for years and years. Below you’ll find out how folic acid works to fight memory loss and how you can ensure that you’re getting enough.
One way that folic acid helps the brain is by decreasing the amount of homocysteine produced in the body. Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid that can cause damage to brain cells. Scientists have discovered definite links to elevated levels of homocysteine, lower levels of folic acid and a higher risk of dementia in senior citizens. Furthermore, people with higher overall levels of homocysteine performed worse on memory-based tests than those with lower concentrations of the amino acid. Therefore, since folic acid, when taken regularly over an extended period of time, reduces the amount of homocysteine in our bodies, researchers believe it’s possible that such a supplementation can lead to the preservation of a higher memory level further into old age. High levels of homocysteine also lead to the build-up of plaque in our arteries, which makes the supplementation of folic acid important to both the fight against brain aging and cardiovascular disease.
Sources of Folic Acid
Doctors regularly urge patients to try and retain nutrients from food as opposed to taking a pill-based supplement. Many different foods contain folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid found in food) including fruits like oranges and strawberries, as well as green leafy vegetables, beans and other legumes. Doctors recommend that you get a daily allowance of at least 400 milligrams. However, women who are pregnant or are looking to become pregnant are urged to increase this amount. A British study also found that those who are age 50 and over might benefit from daily doses as high as 800 milligrams.
Not the Only Answer
Though doctors have always stressed that exercise, social stimulation and a sensible diet are the keys to allowing memory to thrive well into old age, sometimes our chemical make-up needs a bit more of a boost. It is certainly worth it to explore increasing your intake of folic acid now in hopes that it will lead to improved memory in the future. Since there are few negative side effects to maintaining an adequate daily dosage of this compound (and such great potential gains in the long-term) this should be one thing you definitely bring up during your next physical exam. That said, folic acid should not be considered a cure all. You still have to exercise, stay mentally stimulated and eat right to increase your chances of carrying all those precious memories with you well into old age.