How Higher Levels Of DHA Can Make Your B Vitamins More Effective, According To Research
Our bodies need a wide range of vitamins and minerals in order to thrive, and while many of these are naturally found in varying amounts in the foods we're eating daily, there are others that we may need to be more intentional about in order to reach our goal intake. One group of essential nutrients for keeping the body in tiptop shape are B vitamins—in fact, there are eight of them that contribute to the function of your metabolism, brain, mood, sleep, and more.
So what if we told you there was a way to make your B vitamin complex even more effective? A new analysis1 on a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition has revealed that vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements are actually more beneficial in supporting cognitive health in people who have better DHA status (an omega-3).
In other words people with higher levels of DHA cognitively benefited more from B vitamin supplementation.* This is important since B vitamins help to support cognitive function and sharpen your brain, even as you age.*
The study method.
To examine the correlation between DHA levels and the brain-support efficacy of B vitamin supplementation, the study analyzed 191 adults aged 65 and older who were provided varying amounts of folic acid, vitamin B12, or a placebo option for two years.
This was tested by administering baseline cognitive tests at the beginning of the study and another exam at the two-year mark. These tests looked at benchmarks for memory recall, speed reading, digit matching, and letter fluency. Alongside these tests, physical health data of the participants was collected as well.
The results revealed that participants who had higher levels of DHA in their bodies experienced a superior nootropic effect (i.e., cognitive protection) from their B vitamin supplement regimen, specifically folic acid and vitamin B12.
But how does one achieve higher levels of DHA exactly? Well, since our bodies are unable to create DHA in meaningful amounts (i.e., because another omega-3 fat known as ALA can only be converted in minimal amounts to DHA), we must consume it.
The authors of this study acknowledged that a primary limitation of this analysis was that they performed what are known as "post-hoc analyses" (i.e., the research question analyzed was not what the original study design was created to ask, which was the impact of folic acid and B12 supplementation on bone health parameters).
With that said, statistical significance was reached to demonstrate a link between omega-3 DHA status and B vitamin supplements' positive impact on the brain.*
Additionally, the smaller sample size "may be responsible for the lack of findings for domain-specific cognitive functioning," the researchers explain. Authors also hypothesize that had the study been extended beyond two years, this longer period of time may make the correlations for cognition outcomes observed even more apparent.
How you can increase your DHA levels.
As alluded to before, DHA can only be increased through your diet and supplement routine, and some foods that are rich in this valuable omega-3 are:
Since meeting your omega-3 needs through fish alone can be hard (and not always dietary compliant), supplementation is often a helpful way to ensure you're taking in these healthy polyunsaturated fats each and every day.
mbg's omega-3 potency+ is an excellent way to reduce the omega-3 gap with 1,500 mg of EPA and DHA in each serving. That's right, the exact form of omega-3 needed to bolster the efficacy of your B vitamins, protect your brain, and support cognitive function.* Not to mention this sustainably sourced fish oil supplement has fresh, organic lemon oil—so no fishy burps here!
Finally, because B vitamins are intrinsically tied to the process of methylation, it becomes increasingly important that they're doing their job. Methylation is a biochemical process that affects nearly everything in your body from your mood to motor and cognitive function. For some added assistance, mbg's methylation support+ helps with cardiovascular health at the cellular level, optimizes methylation efficiency, and even delivers bioactive B vitamins to support the folate and methionine cycles required to fuel healthy methylation.*
In order to get the most bang for your buck with B vitamins, it would be smart to prioritize omega-3s within your diet and supplementation routine to sharpen your brain and ensure you're supporting the longevity of your cognitive health.*
More specifically, the higher the DHA content in your body, the more you will likely benefit from vitamin B12 and folic acid, particularly for cognition.* Therefore, adding a high-quality omega-3 supplement to your routine will help support brain health in all stages of life so you can remain sharp as a tack for years to come (and that just scratches the surface of benefits).*
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.