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B vitamins may help prevent Alzheimer's

Jenny Decker RN's picture

Published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a British landmark study at Oxford University showed that significantly large daily doses of B vitamins may actually halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment and decrease their chances of later developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study took place over 2 years and it is hoped that further studies and more long term studies will take place as a result of the findings.

A normal vitamin you may get over the counter in the stores is not the size of vitamins used in the study. Researchers were quick to point out that it is important not to go out and buy a bunch of B vitamins in response to this study. Further research is warranted to determine the safety of the level of vitamins given. For example, in the drug given to some participants, called TrioBe Plus, there was 300 times the recommended daily intake of B12, 15 times the recommended dose for B6, and 4 times the recommended dose for folic acid.

High doses of B vitamins lower homocysteine levels in the brain.

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In Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of a amino acid called homocysteine are often present. B vitamins help control these levels and so, the current research shows that high doses of B vitamins lower these homocysteine levels in the brain. Interestingly, the study participants who had the highest levels of this amino acid benefited the most from the treatment of high doses of B vitamins.

The study included 168 volunteers who had mild cognitive impairment who were either given a vitamin pill with the high doses of B vitamins or a dummy placebo pill. Mild cognitive impairment affects 16 percent of people over age 70 years worldwide. Approximately 50 percent of those with mild cognitive impairment develop Alzheimer’s disease within five years.

Alzheimer’s disease has few treatments and no cure, but is a devastating mind-wasting disease characterized by mental decline and loss of memory function, progressing to eventual significant decline in physical and mental functioning. Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s do not necessarily mean a person has the disease, but should be evaluated by a physician.