November is Alzheimer’s Awareness month and a recent study puts Vitamin B12 back at the forefront of research aimed at preventing this mind-bending disease.
A is for Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, a universal term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to impair daily living. While Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, it is the greatest known risk factor. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and worsens over time. In the early stages, memory loss is mild, but eventually individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. (Alzheimer’s Association)
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but treatments for symptoms are available and research is ongoing. Scientists are constantly striving to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset, and most importantly, prevent it from developing.
B is for B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin commonly found in foods such as fish, shellfish, meat, and dairy products. It helps maintain healthy nerve and red blood cells and is necessary in making DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. During digestion, hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein. Once released, B12 combines with a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) before it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Studies have shown that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to abnormal neurologic and psychiatric symptoms as well as:
- Breast Cancer
- Cardiovascular Disease
- High Cholesterol
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Lung Cancer
- Alzheimer’s Disease
C is for Connection
A small, preliminary study published in Neurology suggests that people who eat a diet rich in vitamin B12 may be protecting themselves from Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists followed the blood levels of 271 Finns ages 65 to 79 who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. In particular, they looked at protein levels linked to stroke and the active protein of Vitamin B12.
In the seven years of follow-up, 17 people developed Alzheimer’s. For each small increase of the stroke protein, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease rose 16%. However, with each small increase in vitamin B12, the risk of Alzheimer’s dropped 2%. Even after compensating for factors including age, sex, education, smoking, blood pressure and weight, the results remained constant.
Of course, research is ongoing and more data is necessary, but it certainly makes a strong case for eating a diet rich in Vitamin B12. But what if you want to ensure that you are getting the Vitamin B12 your body needs to stay healthy?