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Nutrients and memory.

Nutrients and Memory

The vitamin concept was established early in the twentieth century. Deficiency diseases were the first to respond to the wide-ranging effects of vitamins. If a diet lacked thiamine, beriberi -- a deficiency disease -- struck. Pellagra, another devastating nutritional deficiency disease, was cured and prevented with niacin. The lack of vitamin D was ascertained to be linked with rickets. Scurvy responded to vitamin C.

As the science of brain function begins to expand, nutritionists remind the scientific community that problems of malfunction might be alleviated if important nutrients could be identified. The holistic view, that mind and body are related, cannot be overlooked by those who are surging ahead in exploring neuroscience.

There exists mounting evidence that mental problems of the aged can be alleviated by proper nutrition, especially designated minerals and vitamins that older people need in larger proportion.

How would such designations affect mental functioning? Already there is abundant evidence that the vitamin niacin has been used successfully in restoring mental functioning to older patients who are bordering on dementia, either because of clogging of the arterial supply to the brain or because of impediments caused by stroke.

Niacin is available as a nutritional supplement, and in foods such as yeast, wheat bran, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, pine nuts, buckwheat, red chili peppers, whole wheat flour, mushrooms, wheat germ, barley, almonds, and split peas.

In the book Nutrients to Age Without Senility, the authors Abram Hoffer, M.D., and Morton Walker, D.P.M., suggest the following dosage: age 20-29: 100 milligrams niacin after each meal; age 30-39: 300 milligrams niacin after each meal; age 40-49: 500 milligrams niacin after each meal; over age 50: 1,000 milligrams niacin after each meal.

Niacin therapy must be conducted with caution, the writers warn. Dosages should be small initially, followed by a gradual increase over a several-week period. (The book is available from Keats Publishing Company, New Canaan, Connecticut.)

More speculative is the use of choline, a B vitamin. The substance is related to acetylcholine, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that is reported to be helpful in the regulation of memory processes.

Choline itself is also a beneficial nutrient that functions in the nervous system where it controls the actions of skeletal structure and smooth muscles.

Choline is available in supplement form and can be found abundantly in wheat germ, lecithin, soybeans, blackeye peas, chick peas, yeast, lentils, peanuts, oatmeal, peanut butter, bran, barley, brown rice, whole wheat cereal, sweet potatoes, green beans, potatoes, cabbage, spinach, textured vegetable protein, and orange juice.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Previous Article:Do babies remember birth?
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