The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B complex is a group of vitamins including thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) and others. Vitamin B is found in liver, grain, and other food sources. Vitamin B deficiency can cause beriberi, digestive disturbances, degeneration of the sex glands, and neurological problems. Excessive doses of some B vitamins can also cause nervous system damage.

Several B complex vitamins have been specifically implicated in memory and memory disorders.

Thiamin (B1)

Thiamin is found in whole grains, beans, nuts, egg yolk, fruit and vegetables. It is particularly important for the body to be able to convert carbohydrates into energy. Mild deficiencies in thiamin can result in impaired carbohydrate metabolism and irritability; severe deficiency can result in various nervous disorders including Korsakoff's disease, characterized by severe memory disorders as well as disorientation and hallucination.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products (e.g. meats, eggs, dairy products). Most of the B12 needed by humans is synthesized by the body, and so external sources are not normally required. However, prolonged use of antibiotics can destroy the intestinal bacteria that produce B vitamins; in such cases, a doctor often recommends the patient take a daily vitamin supplement.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells. Since red blood cells carry oxygen in the bloodstream, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and body tissues may not get sufficient oxygen. In the brain, this can lead to neuron damage and symptoms such as mood disturbance, dementia and psychosis. See also Hypoxia.

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain