Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment Could Be In Vitamin B
Large doses of B vitamins can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people with memory problems. It may slow their progression toward dementia.
A two-year clinical trial was the largest to date into the effect of B vitamins on “mild cognitive impairment,” a condition which is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Reuters reports, “[Researchers] conducted a two-year trial with 168 volunteers with MCI who were given either a vitamin pill containing very high doses of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, or a placebo dummy pill … [O]n average the brains of those taking the vitamin treatment shrank at a rate of 0.76 percent a year, while those taking the dummy pill had an average brain shrinkage of 1.08 percent.”
B vitamins are indeed important for optimal brain health, and may even serve as an adjunct to “emergency” medicine in some cases. For example, vitamin B3 (niacin) may be helpful in your neurological recovery after you’ve experienced a stroke.
In a previous study on the impact of B12 on brain wasting, seniors with lower vitamin B12 levels at the start of the study also had a greater decrease in brain volume at the end.
Those with the lowest B12 levels had a six-fold greater rate of brain volume loss compared with those who had the highest levels!
Interestingly, none of the participants were actually deficient in vitamin B12 — they just had low levels within a normal range.
This goes to show that “normal” is not necessarily the same as “optimal” when you’re talking about nutrients. You don’t have to be clearly deficient in order to experience a decline in health. The study’s lead researcher commented on this, saying, “Our results suggest that rather than maintaining one’s B12 at a level that is just above the cut-off for deficiency, it might be prudent to aim to keep it higher up than normal range.”
This is really important to hear, as most people would assume that if their levels are within the normal range, they’re fine. In reality, you cannot always count on the “normal” reference ranges that come with your blood tests.
Vitamin D is another example of a test that lists “normal” ranges that are nowhere near adequate to keep you healthy. Here, in this latest PloS study, the participants received very high doses of B vitamins. The vitamin pills, which are so potent you can only obtain them with a prescription, contained: 800 micrograms (mcg) folic acid — US RDA is 400 mcg/day, 500 mcg B12 (cyanocobalamin) – US RDA is only 2.4 mcg/day, 20 mg B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride) — US RDA 1.3-1.5 mg/day.
As one of the researchers stated, this is actually “a drug-, not a vitamin intervention.” The study was based on the presumption that by controlling the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, you might be able to reduce the amount of brain shrinkage, which tends to precipitate Alzheimer’s. High levels of homocysteine are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as heart disease, and stroke. B vitamins are homocysteine suppressant, and vitamin B12 in particular is known as essential for neurological function. It seemed to work. After two years, those who had received the vitamin B regimen suffered significantly less brain shrinkage compared to those who had received a placebo.