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Brain power: Study links increased vitamin E levels and physical activity to better academic performance in teens

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage. But according to a study, adequate levels of vitamin E, coupled with regular exercise, are also associated with improved cognitive performance in young students.

The study was published in the journal BMC Pediatrics and conducted by researchers from the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

What vitamin E does for brain health

For the study, researchers monitored 120 young students – 50 girls and 70 boys around 16 years of age, who were enrolled in six different senior secondary schools with the same academic curricula.

The researchers found that the students that were classified as “moderately” or “highly” active performed better academically compared to the rest of the volunteers. These students were found to have high serum levels of vitamin E.

The researchers posited that both vitamin E levels and total antioxidant capacity can be used as indicators for improving executive function, or one’s ability to manage thoughts and actions to accomplish certain tasks, physical activity and the academic performance of students.

These findings support existing data on the importance of proper vitamin intake and brain health.

Existing data also shows that vitamin E deficiency in early infancy can increase the risk of conditions like bronchopulmonary dysplasia and delays in the development of the central nervous system in children. (Related: Learn which foods and supplements can boost your memory.)

Other studies have also determined connections between vitamin E and beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.

Vitamin E also offers other benefits such as physiological improvements and enhanced cognitive performance in studies with diseased populations. According to data from a study in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, patients with decreased mental function and Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to have low blood levels of tocopherols and tocotrienols – two main types of vitamin E.

How vitamin E levels affect academic performance

To date, no studies have analyzed the effects of exercise and vitamin E levels on academic performance. The researchers pursued the study to examine vitamin E’s role in the cognitive performance of young and healthy participants. They set out to determine the link between regular physical activity, vitamin E levels and the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) on the academic performance and executive functions of teenage students.

Data analyzed in the study included:

  • The students’ endurance and aerobic capacity, measured by maximum oxygen uptake on ergospirometry on a treadmill.
  • Physical activity, measured using a questionnaire.
  • Academic performance and executive function or grades in different subjects.
  • Performance in math alone, which was used to gauge executive function.

The researchers included physiological variables like body mass index (BMI) and waist-hip ratio. The data was then compared to information on the students’ total antioxidant capacity and vitamin E levels.

The researchers found that BMI and waist-hip ratio were significantly higher in the volunteers with mild activity levels. On the other hand, their fitness and achievement scores (with respect to academic performance and executive function) were lower compared to participants in the moderately and highly active groups.

The students in the moderate and high activity groups had significantly higher levels of alpha- and beta-tocopherol, along with the total antioxidant capacity activity.

While academic performance and executive function scores were positively correlated with age, gender, alpha- and beta-tocopherol, TAC activity, and physical activity score, they were negatively correlated with BMI.

The researchers advised that students having issues with schoolwork can improve their academic performance and cognitive function by following a healthy diet that includes foods rich in vitamin E, like broccoli, kiwifruit, mango, tomato and sunflower seeds.

Regardless of your age, you can boost your brain health by eating more vitamin E-rich superfoods and exercising regularly.

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