For Grade-A Smarts, Try Vitamin A

By Gina Roberts-Grey

Ever wonder why Bugs Bunny always outsmarts Elmer Fudd? Chalk it up to the carrots he eats. Researchers at Harvard University conducted long-term studies on nearly 6,000 men and found that those who supplemented daily with 50 mg of beta-carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A) had significantly better memory, cognitive function, and verbal recognition than those who took a placebo. Vitamin A may accomplish this by slowing the buildup of plaque in the brain. That means beta-carotene may also play a role in preventing plaque-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Shoot for 25 to 50 mg (41,500 to 83,000 IU) of beta-carotene a day. Eating five or more servings of carotene-rich foods such as carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches, or apricots will fill your daily quotient. Or you can take beta-carotene supplements (up to 50 mg daily). Just make sure to take the supplements with at least 3 grams of fat to increase absorption.