Nobody wants to hear their brain is rapidly shrinking! Sadly enough, this is one of the diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease. We all lose brain cells as we get older, normally about a half percent per year. If you have mild cognitive impairment that rises to 1% and when Alzheimer’s sets in, the atrophy speeds up to 2½%.
B-vitamins and Alzheimer's Disease
The cause of Alzheimer’s still remains a mystery, but it’s becoming increasingly clear what you eat, or don’t eat, can influence your risk as well as the rate at which the disease progresses. B-vitamins, especially folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, are once again being talked about for their powerful role in preventing or at least slowing the development of mild memory loss and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease.
High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are linked to brain shrinkage and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. B-vitamins are known to suppress homocysteine.
In one study, blood levels of folate and vitamin B12, as well as homocysteine, were analyzed in 121 normal patients and 321 patients with either mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Results showed homocysteine levels were highest in the patients with both cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, and homocysteine was highest and folate levels lowest in those with Alzheimer’s. In addition, performance on a series of cognitive tests worsened as levels of vitamin B12 and folate decreased, while those scores were inversely associated with homocysteine levels.
Take This Type of Folic Acid
If you take a B-complex or folic acid supplement, make sure the folic acid is in its biologically active form – L-5-MTHF. This is the form that’s able to cross the blood-brain barrier to give you the brain benefits mentioned above.
Blood Pressure and Mental Decline
Maintaining a normal blood pressure is also important in preventing dementia. Research concludes elevated blood pressure harms blood vessels in the brain associated with damage to the structure of the brain’s white matter and mental decline even in people as young as 40-years-old. Visit this blog post for strategies for reducing blood pressure.
Some good news though – seniors who stay physically active show less brain tissue atrophy and white matter lesions in the brain.
Bottom Line: There is certainly a link between memory loss and a deficiency of specific B-vitamins. However, the question of “how much” folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 still needs to be determined.
For more information about Alzheimer's Disease, visit the blog "Improve Your Odds Against Alzheimer's Disease."
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Kim G, Kim H, Kim K, et al: Relationship of cognitive function with B vitamin status, homocysteine, and tissue factor pathway inhibitor in cognitively impaired elderly. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2012;October 5th.
Maillard P, Seshadri S, Beiser A, et al: Effects of systolic blood pressure on white matter integrity in young adults in the Framingham Heart Study. Lancet neurology 2012;November 1st.
Gow A, Bastin M, Munoz Maniega S, et al: Neuro-protective lifestyles and the aging brain. Neurology 2012;79:1802-1808.
Verdelho A, Madureira S, Ferro J, et al: Physical activity prevents progression for cognitive impairment and vascular dementia. Stroke 2012;November 1st.