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Psychiatrist reveals overlooked vitamin that boosts brain health

The Independent logo The Independent 4/09/2019 Chelsea Ritschel
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As we age, it is important to consider how our diet choices affect our bodies. While most people know the importance of eating for a heart-healthy lifestyle, brain health is often overlooked.

Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants are all known to support brain health, which can translate into better mental function, according to Harvard Medical School.

But, in addition to the nutrients found in blueberries and fatty fish, there is another vitamin that is often overlooked, according to one psychiatrist - vitamin E.

“This is one of my absolute favourite nutrients,” Columbia University psychiatrist Dr Drew Ramsey wrote on Instagram. “Vitamin E is a firefighter. Every second, thousands of ‘fires’ erupt on the surface of your cells, and the dedicated job of vitamin E is to put those fires out.

“Your brain is particularly vulnerable to fires because it contains high concentrations of omega-3 fats, and these fats are very easy to oxidise.”

According to Dr Ramsey, vitamin E is “uniquely suited” to protect the outer layer of fat that surrounds cells because it is a “fat-soluble antioxidant”.

“By dissolving in the fat that makes up the cell membrane, it protects cells from oxidative damage in a way that other antioxidants can’t,” he continued.

In addition to offering oxidative protection for our brains, vitamin E also decreases the risk of depression and dementia, according to Dr Ramsey, who says that people should be looking to increase their consumption of alpha-tocopherol - one of eight forms of vitamin E.

While fortified foods and supplements offer additional vitamin E, Dr Ramsey recommends getting it straight from the source of whole foods - as it has “twice the biological potency, literally twice the power, of the form found in supplements”.

Vitamin E is naturally found in foods such as almonds, olive oil, sunflower seeds, spinach, and avocado.

According to Harvard University’s School of Public Health, the recommended daily intake of vitamin E for males and females over the age of 14 is 15mg daily. 

In addition to boosting brain health, vitamin E may also have the potential to lower the risk of heart disease.

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