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The hungry brain

Skeletal muscle and the brain are the most energy-demanding tissues in the human body and, consequently, require substantial supply of micronutrients involved in energy production.

There is a strong biological and physiological rationale for the use of vitamins and minerals for the support of cellular energy production, especially within the brain. Skeletal muscle and the brain are the most energy demanding tissues in the human body and, consequently, require substantial supply of micronutrients involved in energy production – particularly the B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and zinc**.

Further, because there is a close interplay between these micronutrients across the successive steps of energy production, all of them should be available simultaneously as the whole system may be slowed down by a lack in a single one of them.

This inter-relationship between key micronutrients and their role in energy production and neurological function was the subject of a recent review published in Nutrients. Some key highlights from this research include:

  • Iron is known to be critical for neuronal (nerve) and brain health. Iron deficiency affects neural processes such as myelination and neural plasticity.
  • Zinc is considered essential for the formation and migration of neurons and for the formation of neuronal synapses (communication gap between nerve cells)
  • Magnesium is required for hundreds of enzymatic reactions, including the synthesis of energy and as a cofactor for neurotransmitter synthesis.
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1) is involved in the formation of nerve tissue
  • Vitamin B1 is also required for the synthesis of fatty acids, steroids, nucleic acids and aromatic amino acids, which are precursors
    to a range of neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, glutamate and gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA).
  • Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) is an essential precursor in the synthesis of acetyl-CoA.  Many soluble proteins are created by acetyl-CoA making it an important function for neuronal development. In the brain, Vitamin B5 is involved in the synthesis of two major neurotransmitters: serotonin from tryptophan and dopamine from phenylalanine. The synthesis of other neurotransmitters, including glutamate or GABA, is also catalysed by enzymes that require vitamin B6 as cofactors.
  • Folate is involved in cerebral methylation processes and is important in maintaining general brain functions as reflected in changes in mood, irritability and sleep. Folate also enables  the metabolism of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are important in mood regulation. 
  • Vitamin C is a cofactor of the enzymes involved in the formation of noradrenaline and adrenaline. Several components of the nervous system are modulated by the concentrations of vitamin C.

Evidence from human research clearly shows both that a significant proportion of the population of developed countries like Australia and New Zealand suffer from deficiencies or insufficiencies in one or more of this group of these nutrients. 

Call us at True Medicine for individualised assessment of your nutritional needs – 07 55301863.

** Always consult a qualified Naturopath for assessment and advice regarding supplements.  Never self-prescribe and resist the temptation to purchase inferior products on-line.



Kennedy D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy – A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068