Vitamins for Concentration: What Works and What Doesn’t

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Vitamins for Concentration: What Works and What Doesn’t

Understanding When and How to Use Vitamins for Focus

There have been many claims about using different vitamins for concentration and increasing focus. And while taking vitamin supplements might not be the first place to start if you’re struggling to focus, that doesn’t mean that vitamins can’t help. Let’s look at the research and see which vitamins and other supplements show the greatest support for improving concentration and focus. 

Key Points:

  • B vitamins, as well as vitamins C and D, may help support concentration and focus.
  • No supplement or vitamin nootropic cocktail or regime has been shown to reverse cognitive impairment or fix medical diagnoses, such as ADHD or other issues with focus and executive functioning.
  • The best way to improve overall brain function and cognition is through an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, and proper sleep.
  • It’s best to try adding in vitamins for concentration after you’ve created a good foundation of brain health through diet and lifestyle.
  • Probiotics may help to improve the absorption of vitamins as well as underlying causes of poor concentration.

Vitamins and Concentration

The best supporting evidence we have for vitamins for concentration are for B vitamins and vitamin D and C. Technically, there have been no studies done solely on concentration and focus, but there are good studies looking at these supplements for supporting general cognitive performance, which includes concentration. 

When we talk about concentration specifically, we mean the ability to focus your attention on something such as a task, learning in a class, crossword puzzle, or whatever is in front of you. A loss of focus/attention/concentration is when we just can’t seem to keep the task or event in front of us in mind. 

The ability to focus is part of our overall cognitive function. Cognitive function includes all of our mental processes, such as memory, learning, perception of events and reality, language, our ability to reason, and our ability to work with information that we learn and store it for later use [1].

Let’s take a closer look at how these vitamins can support cognitive health.

B Vitamins

The family of B vitamins includes folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and vitamin B3 (niacin), and based on current research, these may be the best vitamins for concentration. 

There are quite a few research studies on using B vitamins to improve general cognition, and the evidence does lean more in favor of B vitamins being beneficial, particularly in people without cognitive impairment or minimal cognitive impairment. B vitamins generally support healthy brain function, but no studies have shown that B vitamins can reverse any medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. 

Let’s look at the research on B vitamins for concentration and focus, specifically, a bit closer.

Can B Vitamins Improve Concentration?

Research is generally supportive of B vitamins improving cognition overall and a few studies show improvements in focus or concentration specifically.

Here are a few quick facts about B vitamins and concentration:

  • In both healthy adults and those with inadequate nutrition, high-dose B-complex improved energy levels and mental performance in both groups. Additionally in these studies, brain mapping showed increased activity in the brain regions associated with attention, executive control, and working memory during cognitive tasks [2].
  • Cognition and episodic memory were improved in adults and for people with mild cognitive impairment with B vitamins [2, 3].
  • In another study, folic acid (vitamin B9) with other B vitamins, and folic acid alone, improved cognition, especially memory, in people with mild cognitive impairment [4].

There have also been a few promising studies done with children in relation to B vitamins and attention. Vitamin B12 was shown to improve their performance in five school subjects [5] and one study found that 8-year-old kids whose moms took methylated folate (B9) during pregnancy did better on attention tasks [6].

These studies show promise that B vitamins may help specifically with focus, attention, and concentration. Part of the reason why they may help in cognition is that they may decrease inflammation and oxidative stress, and support healthy nerve function [7].

While the research on B vitamins is compelling, we always want to look at refuting evidence to know the limits of using vitamins for concentration.

A smaller meta analysis of five clinical trials looking to see if B vitamins can reduce the rate of decline in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s found mixed results. In older adults with Alzheimer’s disease, B vitamins showed no improvement, and for people with MCI, B vitamins were somewhat helpful in improving memory, but didn’t help with attention or executive functioning [8]. Another larger meta-analysis did not find that B12 or complex B vitamins improved cognitive function in people without advanced neurological disorders [9].

Adding B Vitamins to Your Regimen

In general, it looks like B vitamins have a good chance of helping — and no risk of hurting — brain health. Taking B vitamins at the recommended daily dose is safe and typically without side effects. If you’re wondering about your B vitamin levels, you can get them checked in your annual blood work from your doctor to see if you’re deficient in any of your B vitamins. 

You can also support your vitamin B levels through food. Animal products such as poultry, meat, and liver, are high in both B12 and B6 [10, 11]. B6 can also be found in potatoes and other starchy vegetables, and fruit [11].

Research has also shown that probiotics may help to enhance the absorption of certain B vitamins, as well as other micronutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc [12].

While we have the most compelling evidence for B vitamins for concentration, there are a few other vitamins that may also be helpful.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been found to be generally helpful for cognitive function and for improving attention in particular. One meta analysis found that taking vitamin C for five to 10 years may have benefitted overall cognitive function in older adults with normal cognition [3]. Additionally, adults with low vitamin C levels who took vitamin C were more motivated to work and had better attentional focus and performance [13].

Vitamin D

The research shows some evidence that vitamin D may help improve attention, but not overall cognition, in older adults with MCI. But it does not show that vitamin D reduces inattention in kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [6, 14]. While one meta analysis found that low vitamin D levels were associated with reduced cognitive performance and with cognitive decline in observational studies, they found that taking vitamin D did not improve cognitive performance or decline [15].

Vitamins C and D are good for our health in many ways, not just including brain health. They’re both important in supporting the immune system and our general wellness. It’s safe to add in both vitamin C and vitamin D3 supplements at recommended daily doses. The best form of vitamin D though is for your body to make it, and we need about 20 minutes of skin exposure to the sun daily for good vitamin D levels. If you live in areas where you can’t get outside daily and have your arms and face exposed to the light, you may want to take a supplement.

What About Ginkgo Biloba and Other Supplements?

Most brain-boosting nootropics (supplement or drug used to enhance memory or general cognitive function) have a variety of vitamins and supplements in them and claim to not only improve focus and concentration, but also increase energy, regulate neurotransmitters, and improve nerve function in the brain.

As with the other studies of vitamins for focus, the studies of ginkgo biloba, L-glutamine, antioxidants, ginseng, or omega-3 fatty acids did not only look at improving focus.

This doesn’t mean that none of these supplements will help with concentration or that they’re not beneficial for brain function, only that in general when supplements are tested for brain health, they usually look at all areas of cognition and typically do not separate out just concentration and focus. Therefore it’s hard to know if any one of these is the one best supplement for concentration.

What we do know is that many of these supplements contain B vitamins as well as vitamin C and D, and also include other vitamins and supplements that improve brain health and cognition.

Let’s take a look at what the research shows about how these supplements may support brain function.

Vitamin or SupplementBrain Health Benefits
B vitamins, including including folate, B12, and B6Improved attention, cognition, and episodic memory in healthy adults and for people with mild cognitive impairment [2, 3, 4]
Vitamin CImproves general cognition and the ability to focus and pay attention to tasks [3, 13]
Vitamin DMay help support attention in people with mild cognitive impairment [6, 14]; may also improve visual-spatial functioning in people with mild cognitive impairment [3]
L-glutamine (an amino acid precursor to the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA)May improve our ability to choose a response to a stimulus, which can be helpful in improving symptoms of ADHD, addiction, eating disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder [16, 17]
Ginkgo bilobaMay be more effective than placebo at improving cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease patients [18], however other studies show no improvement [18]
MultivitaminsMultivitamins, particularly those with various B vitamins as well as magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, and other vitamins that support wellness, may help improve our ability to complete tasks, as well as improve general cognitive function [19]
Omega-3 fatty acids/DHA/EPAImproves cognition and memory in people with mild cognitive impairment [4]; these healthy omega-3 fatty acids may be particularly important for people who carry the Apoe4 gene (who may clear DHA from the blood too quickly); these fats found mainly in fatty fish are essential for protecting the brain from stress and inflammation, and health of the hippocampus [20].

Three Steps to Improve Concentration

Vitamins for Concentration: What Works and What Doesn’t - The%20Best%20Supports%20for%20Brain%20Health Landscape L

While we can add in some vitamins for concentration, really improving your well-being and the function of your brain is best done with consistent lifestyle changes. Here are three simple ways to start improving your concentration and focus:

  1. Low-inflammatory diet rich in the vegetables, animal products, and fatty fish that contain brain-healthy vitamins such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids [21, 22, 23]. This type of diet, either through a Paleo diet or Mediterranean diet, also helps reduce neuroinflammation that can contribute to brain fog [24].
  2. Exercise helps increase blood flow to the brain and also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a molecule that plays an important role in neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to learn, as well as supports mental health [25]. Exercise helps decrease brain fog, improve cognition, learning, memory, and academic and work performance [5, 26, 27]. If you exercise outside, you can also help boost your vitamin D levels.
  3. Sleep is essential for good brain function. Not only is sleep when the brain and body repair and decrease inflammation, but the brain needs adequate sleep in order to focus, make rational decisions, and for the gut to work properly [28, 29, 30]. Sleep is also when the brain solidifies learning and stores memories [31]. Most adults need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night, with consistent sleep and wake times every day.

Following these three steps can improve not only your concentration and focus, but also your executive functioning (ability to organize and complete tasks,) mental health, and memory.

The Best Vitamins for Concentration

Overall, improving your concentration and focus is best done with a low-inflammatory diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep. These are the foundation for increasing mental alertness and good brain function.

If you do all of these things and are still struggling, for instance maybe you’re finding it hard to focus at work or concentrate for long periods of time on a project, you can look into adding in B vitamins either in the form of a good multivitamin or a separate B complex. A good multivitamin can also support your brain with vitamins C and D. If you’re not getting enough sunlight daily, adding in a vitamin D supplement might be a great choice for you.

If you’re concerned about your brain function and aren’t sure where to start to improve it, we’re here to help you at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Health. Just fill out our patient inquiry and we will get right back to you.

The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.

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