Research update: B vitamins may help protect against Alzheimer’s

September 15, 2011 · by Sean Heneghan · General News, Research

As the saying in Chinese medicine goes, treating disease when it’s already begun is like rooting for water in a well when one is already thirsty, so where possible prevention of disease is always preferable to treating it when it’s arrived. In a similar vein, an interesting report in todays guardian shows that the conclusions from a 2 year study show that supplementation of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid in medicinal quantities reduced the overall shrinkage of a persons brain by 30%, or at least in elderly patients with already existing cognitive impairment.

In the study 270 men and 70 women with mild cognitive impairment (a diagnosis of which leads 50% of patients to go on to develop Alzheimer’s) were studied. They were given higher than the recommended dosage of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid which are thought to control levels of the amino acid homocysteine which is known to damage blood vessels and contribute to brain atrophy. A 30% reduction in brain shrinkage was observed but in patients who had the highest levels of homocysteine at the beginning of the study, a 50% reduction in shrinkage of the brain was observed.

It’s thought as we age we are less able to absorb B vitamins, and levels of homocysteine levels are also thought to rise with excessive alcohol consumption and poor dietary habits.

While the evidence is encouraging, the researchers warn the elderly against over consumption of supplements since folic acid has some potential to re-activate cancer cells, and to use vitamin supplementation after consultation with a doctor.

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