B Vitamins May Prevent the Onset of Alzheimer’s
It is known that B vitamins are an important component of our diets, from supporting and increasing metabolism, maintaining healthy skin, and enhancing our immune and nervous system function. Recently a study was completed that shows B vitamins may also play a role in preventing neurological degeneration in patients who are suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Mild cognitive impairment is characterized by slight problems with memory loss, language and loss of other mental functions. It is estimated that 16 percent of people over 70 suffer from MCI and also are at great risk for more severe impairment. Approximately 50 percent of elderly diagnosed with a form of MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other serious forms of dementia within another five years.
To more fully investigate the safety and effectiveness of B Vitamins on those suffering from MCI, a double blind clinical study was conducted by researchers at Oxford University in the UK. The study measured the atrophy rate of the brain, or essentially its rate of shrinkage, as well as conducted cognitive tests over two years. Patients were given a daily dose of a typical B6 and B12 Vitamin supplement compared to a placebo pill.
The results were significant. Brain scans taken at the beginning and end of the trial showed that patients receiving the B vitamin supplement had brains that shrank at half the rate of those receiving placebo. Additionally, patients that had a slower rate of brain atrophy also had the highest scores in mental tests, confirming that the B vitamins helped preserve mental functions.
There is some evidence that high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood are linked to an increased risk in developing Alzheimer’s. B vitamins are known to control levels of homocysteine, and those patients with high levels of the amino acid showed the greatest benefit of the treatment.
Much further study is required, but it does give some hope of a simple treatment that will prevent onset of Alzheimer’s, a disease that currently has no cure and affects 26 million people around the world and their families.