Last Updated: May 30, 2011 | By Rebecca Bragg
Rebecca Bragg has been a writer since 1979. From 1988 to 2000, she was a reporter for Canada's largest newspaper, the "Toronto Star," specializing in travel. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and creative writing and has lived in India and Nepal, volunteering in animal rescue organizations in both countries.
The brain requires a constant supply of micronutrients from the bloodstream. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
The brain is the human body's biggest energy guzzler. The organ responsible for regulating all physical and cognitive processes only accounts for about 2 percent of the body's weight, yet utilizes 25 percent of its fuel supply. To function at peak efficiency, the brain needs constant infusions of vitamins and minerals from blood. When its nutritional needs aren't being met, the signals flashing between neurons may slow down; the membranes that protect brain cells from damage may deteriorate; and the result may be decline in both physical capability and mental acuity.
The eight B vitamins, collectively known as B-complex, are water-soluble, meaning that the body can't store them so the supply to the bloodstream must be replenished daily. The brain needs these vitamins to metabolize fuel -- glucose -- and regulate levels of homocysteine. Elevated levels of this amino acid are linked to cardiovascular disease and, according to a 2002 study conducted by Boston University and Tufts University, high homocysteine also poses a "very significant risk factor" for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The most important B vitamins are folate and B6, both found in many grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and B12, which occurs naturally in animal
Vitamins C and E
Neurotransmitters are chemicals released by nerve cells that allow impulses to be conveyed to other neurons. Vitamin C is both a potent antioxidant and crucial for the creation of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which affects emotions, learning, sleeping and dreaming. All fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but green peppers, citrus fruits, leafy greens and strawberries are among the richest sources. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, vitamin E, another antioxidant, protects cell membranes and may guard against neurodegenerative diseases. Many types of nuts, vegetable oils and whole grains are excellent dietary sources.
Much of the research done by neuroscientist Frank Miskevich of Texas A