There is now strong evidence to suggest that your daily dose of B vitamins may help protect you from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease affects 36 million people worldwide. Therefore, a lot of research is put into finding a cure, but unfortunately some of the promising studies have failed late-stage clinical trials. Researchers from the FMRIB Centre at the University of Oxford have shown that a high-dose vitamin B treatment can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia that often lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The results were obtained from a two-year randomized, controlled clinical trial and were recently published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
The new findings come from a reanalysis of data originally collected in 2010 from 271 older adults suffering from mild cognitive impairment, a form of memory loss considered a potential precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Although the brain naturally shrinks as we get older (about 0.5 percent per year), in people with mild cognitive impairment this shrinkage takes place twice as fast as usual. In Alzheimer’s patients, shrinkage takes place four times as fast as usual.
The researchers assigned participants to take either a placebo pill or a high daily dose of three B vitamins – folic acid (0.8 mg), vitamin B6 (20 mg) and vitamin B12 (0.5 mg) – over the course of two years. Throughout the trial, participants were given standard memory and cognitive tests. Researchers also scanned some brains before and after to document the effect, if any, there was on brain shrinkage.
They found that memory loss halted in those who took the B vitamins, but not in those who took the placebo. The vitamins also significantly slowed brain shrinkage. A rapidly shrinking brain is one of the signs of an increased risk for Alzheimer’s. Those taking the B vitamins had 90 percent less shrinkage in their brains.
The research also showed that the areas of the brain protected from damage are almost exactly those that Alzheimer’s typically destroys. It includes areas that control how we learn, remember and organize our thoughts, precisely those that gradually atrophy as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.
While these results are preliminary and more research is needed, they do offer promise for a simple, inexpensive intervention in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.