B Vitamins and Alzheimer’s Prevention

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Can a few vitamins a day save your gray matter from atrophy? Researchers at England’s Oxford University think so. In a 2013 study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the British scientists reported that three members of the Vitamin B complex – namely folic acid, B6, and B12 – may help prevent atrophy of key brain regions related to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

They first did a controlled experiment with elderly subjects who had mild dementia and showed, through imaging procedures, that the vitamins generated a slow-down in expected shrinkage of the whole brain volume over a two-year period. The daily amounts of vitamins used were .8 mg of folic acid, 20 milligrams of B6, and .5 milligrams of B12.  The researchers stated that the vitamin treatment specifically reduced atrophy by as much as seven-fold in areas of the brain specifically vulnerable to Alzheimer’s, including the medial temporal lobe.

The three B vitamins involved in the study are known to help lower the level of homocysteine in the body. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced as a byproduct of meat consumption. At elevated levels, it is linked to arterial disease, blood clot formation, and Alzheimer’s. The benefit of the B vitamins in this study was limited to subjects with high homocysteine levels.

 My Viewpoint: Elevated homocysteine is a definite risk factor for creating havoc in the cardiovascular system. Keeping the homocysteine level of patients below 10 micromoles/liter, as determined by blood tests, is the goal of doctors.  In my practice, I always prescribed B vitamins as part of a healthy heart routine.  High homocysteine is often a genetic problem.  There are many genetic tests available for cardiovascular disease that aren’t being widely used by doctors that can provide critical clues for susceptibility to heart attack, dementia, and risky levels of homocysteine.

 What This Means to You: This study offers a practical clue if you have a loved one with mild dementia. Homocysteine is a widely overlooked risk factor. B vitamins are a widely overlooked remedy.

 My Recommendation:Check out the homocysteine level with a simple blood test that your doctor can do. If the level is too high, get on a B vitamin routine. It may make a difference.

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