Vitamins For Brain - Kids

  • Isha Ishtiaq Master of Science - MS, Biological sciences, University of Sialkot, Pakistan

Why are vitamins important for kids’ brain health?

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and metabolism. They are especially important for kids’ brain health because the brain is highly sensitive to nutritional status (food intake vs. demand).1 

The brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy and oxygen, making it vulnerable to oxidative stress and inflammation. Vitamins help protect the brain from these harmful effects by acting as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.2

Vitamins support various aspects of brain health in children, such as:

The functions, sources and effects of deficiency of some of the essential vitamins for brain health are discussed below.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble (can dissolve in fats or oils) vitamin having multiple roles in the brain’s development and function. It’s also known as retinol.


Some of vitamin A roles include:


Vitamin A deficiency can cause:


The sources of vitamin A are animal products such as liver, eggs, cheese, butter, and milk. Plant sources of vitamin A include orange-coloured fruits and vegetables such as papayas, carrots, sweet potatoes, mangoes, carrots, papayas, apricots, and pumpkins. These foods contain beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A that can be converted into active vitamin A within the body.7

Vitamin B complex

The B vitamins, including B1 which is thiamine, B2 which is riboflavin, B3which is niacin, B5which is (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6which is pyridoxine, B7which is biotinB6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 which isfolate(folate), and B12 which is cobalamin(cobalamin), play a crucial role in brain health.8

Functions of vitamin B complex

  • Supports memory, focus, and overall cognitive function
  • SerotoninInvolved in the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which regulate mood, sleep, and cognitive function are involved in the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Maintains the health of brain cells and promotes the production of myelin (the layer around the brain cell’s projection, allowing for fast distribution of information to another brain cell)
  • Involved in the synthesis of genetic material in the form of DNA and RNA, which are essential for the development and repair of brain tissue

It helps produce energy for the brain and protects against oxidative stress and inflammation.8


Vitamin B complex deficiency can also have serious consequences, including:

  • Reduced cognitive function
  • Increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Impaired mood regulation and increased irritability.8


B vitamins are present in both animal and plant sources:

  • Animal sources include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yoghurt,
  • Plant sources are whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and fruits.8

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are not vitamins but are essential nutrients that have similar effects on the brain as some vitamins. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to maintain brain health, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).


Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in:

  • Building the structure of cell membranes of the brain cells and enhancing their function
  • Supporting the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin
  • Modulating brain cells' communication by regulating the activity of receptors of neurotransmitters
  • Protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation.9


Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can impair brain function in children. Some of the consequences of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include:

  • Reduced cognitive performance
  • Increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD
  • Impaired mood regulation and increased risk of depression and anxiety.9, 10


Fish oil and fish products such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, trout, cod liver oil, krill oil, and algal oil are sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, hemp seeds, and canola oil.11

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbate, or L-ascorbic acid) is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the brain from oxidative stress. It neutralises harmful free radicals, which can damage brain cells and contribute to cognitive decline. 


  • Helps shield the brain against oxidative stress and inflammation
  • It can regenerate antioxidants like vitamin E and glutathione
  • Enhances the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and serotonin
  • Supports the synthesis of collagen, which is a structural protein of the blood vessels in the brain
  • Facilitates the absorption of iron, which is essential for oxygen transport to the brain.12


Vitamin C deficiency can result in:

  • Reduced cognitive performance
  • Increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders
  • Impaired immune system and increased susceptibility to infections.12 


Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruits, strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes are sources of Vitamin C.13

Vitamin E

Vitamin E serves as another potent antioxidant, aiding in safeguarding the brain against oxidative stress. It collaborates with other antioxidants to counteract free radicals and avert harm to brain cells.14


  • Reduces the risk of developing age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease
  • Prevents oxidative damage to brain cells
  • Supports the health and function of brain cells.14


Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower and safflower oil), and leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, are good sources of Vitamin E.15

Vitamin D

Due to its synthesis in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, it is often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin". It’s important in brain health, mood regulation, and cognitive function.16


Vitamin D is involved in:

  • Regulating gene expression of proteins involved in neuronal growth (brain cell growth) and differentiation (transition to a more specific cell type)
  • Modulating the activity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate
  • Influencing the formation of synapses (points of communication between the brain cells) and neural circuits (connection of brain cells having a specific function)
  • Protecting against neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration
  • Supporting mood regulation and mental health.16, 17


Deficiency of vitamin D results in:

  • Reduced cognitive performance
  • Increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD
  • Impaired mood regulation and increased risk of depression and anxiety.17

15% of young children and 17% of adolescents lack sufficient vitamin D levels.


The primary source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure.

  • Spending time outdoors, especially during the midday hours when the sun's UVB rays are most intense, can help the body produce vitamin D
  • Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines are dietary sources of vitamin D. Egg yolks, cheese, butter, mushrooms, and fortified foods such as milk, yoghurt, cereal, and orange juice are also good sources of vitamin D.16

Table 1. Recommended daily intake of vitamins for children of different age

Age groupVitamin A (mcg)Vitamin B1 (mg)Vitamin B2 (mg)Vitamin B3 (mg)Vitamin B6 (mg)Vitamin B7 (mcg)Vitamin B9 (mcg)Vitamin B12 (mcg)Vitamin C (mg)Vitamin D (mcg)Vitamin E (mg)Vitamin K (mcg)
1-3 years3000.50.560.581500.91515630
4-8 years4000.60.680.6122001.22515755
9-13 years6000.90.9121203001.845151160
14-18 years900 for males/700 for females1.2 for males /1.0 for females1.3 for males/1.0 for females16 for males/14 for females1.3 for males/1.2 for females25 for both male and female400 for both male and female2.4 for both male and female75 for males/65 for females15 for both male and female15 for both male and female75 for both male and female

How to recognise vitamin deficiencies in children

Vitamin deficiencies can have serious consequences for children’s brain health and overall well-being. Therefore, it is critical to recognise the signs of vitamin deficiencies in children and seek medical attention if necessary.

Some of the common behavioural and cognitive symptoms of vitamin deficiencies in children are:

  • Poor concentration and attention span
  • Difficulty learning and remembering new information
  • Low academic performance and achievement
  • Reduced problem-solving and reasoning skills
  • Impaired language and communication skills
  • Mood swings and emotional instability
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity.18, 19

Vitamin deficiency can also present as physical symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Pale skin and lips
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Brittle nails and hair loss
  • Frequent infections and illnesses
  • Poor wound healing and bleeding gums
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Bone pain and fractures
  • Growth retardation (delayed growth) and stunted development.18, 19

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, you should consult with a healthcare professional to diagnose the cause of the deficiency and prescribe the appropriate treatment. 

Vitamin deficiencies can be caused by various factors, such as:

  • Inadequate dietary intake of vitamins due to poor food choices, food allergies, or food intolerances
  • Malabsorption (lack or decreased absorption from digested foods) of vitamins due to digestive disorders, intestinal infections (infections of the bowel), or medications that interfere with vitamin absorption
  • Increased demand for vitamins due to rapid growth, stress, illness, or injury
  • Genetic factors that affect vitamin metabolism (the process of activating vitamins) or utilisation. 20

As there are multiple reasons why a child can be vitamin-deficient, it’s important to identify the underlying cause and address it accordingly. Detecting and intervening early can prevent additional complications and enhance your child’s brain health and overall quality of life.

How to ensure kids get adequate brain-boosting vitamins

The best way to ensure kids get adequate brain-boosting vitamins is to provide them with a well-rounded diet coming from different food groups

Some of the tips for incorporating vitamin-rich foods into your child’s diet are:

  • Encourage your child to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate, as well as antioxidants, fibre, and water. They also add colour, flavour, and texture to your child’s meals.
  • Include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and eggs in your child’s diet. These foods are rich in B vitamins, as well as protein, fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium. They also provide energy and satiety (feeling full) for your child’s brain.
  • Offer your child fish or fish oil at least twice a week. Fish and fish oil are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin D, iodine, selenium, and proteins. They also support your child’s brain development and function.
  • Choose dairy products or fortified alternatives for your child. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, and butter are rich in vitamins A, D, B2, B12, calcium, phosphorus, and proteins. They also support your child’s bone health and growth. If your child is lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, you can choose fortified alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, or oat milk.
  • Use healthy fats and oils for your child. Healthy fats and oils such as olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and butter are rich in vitamin E, K, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also provide energy and support for your child’s brain cells.21, 22

In some cases, your child may need vitamin supplements to meet their nutritional needs. Some of the situations where vitamin supplements may be beneficial for your child are:

  • If your child has a medical condition that affects their vitamin absorption or utilisation
  • If your child follows a restrictive diet that excludes certain food groups or nutrients
  • If your child has a genetic mutation that affects their vitamin metabolism or utilisation
  • If your child lives in a region where sunlight exposure is limited or inadequate
  • If your child is a picky eater who refuses to eat certain foods or has a poor appetite. 21, 22

However, before giving your child any vitamin supplements, you should consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate type, dosage, and duration of supplementation for your child. Vitamin supplements are not a substitute for a balanced diet and can have adverse effects if taken in excess or in combination with other medications. That specifically applies to fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K, that the body cannot get rid of quickly. Inappropriate supplementation could lead to adverse symptoms of hypervitaminosis (overdose of vitamins). 23

Another way to ensure your child gets adequate vitamin D is to encourage them to engage in outdoor activities for at least 15 minutes daily. Outdoor activities such as playing, walking, biking, or gardening can help your child get enough sunlight exposure to produce vitamin D naturally. 

Nevertheless, it's important to adhere to certain sun safety precautions to shield your child from the detrimental effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays, including:

  • Avoid the peak sun hours, which is between 10 am and 4 pm
  • Every two hours, you can reapply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15
  • Utilizing protective attire like hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves
  • Seeking shade when possible
  • Drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration.24


Vitamins are essential for kids’ brain health. They help the brain develop and function properly by providing various benefits such as energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, antioxidant protection, gene regulation, and mood regulation. The key vitamins that boost brain function in children are vitamins A, B complex, C, D, and omega-3 fatty acids.

The best way to ensure kids get adequate brain-boosting vitamins is to provide them with a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from different food groups. In some cases, vitamin supplements may be necessary to meet the nutritional needs of children. However, vitamin supplements should be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

By prioritising nutrition for your child’s brain health, you can help them achieve optimal cognitive development and performance and promote their overall well-being.


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Isha Ishtiaq

Master of Science - MS, Biological sciences, University of Sialkot

Isha Ishtiaq is a versatile medical writer and storyteller who brings the world of medicine to life. With her deep understanding of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences, she crafts content that’s not only informative but also engaging. Over the years, she has honed her skills by crafting diverse content, including blogs, research papers, and review articles, catering to clients worldwide. Her goal is clear: to be at the forefront of technological advancements in the industry, ensuring that her audience receives top-notch, up-to-date content. Her writing is a blend of precision and passion, reflecting her commitment to educating and inspiring her readers. When you engage with her work, you can be confident that you're in the hands of a writer who is not just skilled but driven by a profound passion for her craft. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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