Scientists at Oxford University are saying that vitamin B could slow down, if not prevent, the shrinkage that affects many older people’s brains. The study suggests that taking daily supplements of B vitamins could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The discovery that people in the early stages of failing memory can retain more of their mental faculties for longer if they take the tablets regularly could lead to treatments for the condition. Some participants in the trial saw their neurological decline reduced by as much as half after using B vitamin supplements.
This breakthrough has raised hopes that the vitamins, which are sold in chemists, health food stores and on the Nutrition Mission online shop, could at least slow down, if not prevent, the shrinkage that affects many older people’s brains. Co-leader of the trial, Professor David Smith of the Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University, explained, “It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease in many people who suffer from mild memory problems. Today there are about 1.5 million elderly in UK, 5 million in USA and 14 million in Europe with such memory problems.”
The study backs up the theory held at Nutrition Mission that it is better to stay healthy and get all of the nutrients the body needs to function well than eat a terrible diet, deficient in the nutrients needed and hope that the medical profession can fix you when you break. As Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, said ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.
There are many types of B vitamin but the 3 used in the study are vitamins B6, B9 (folic acid or folate) and B12.
Vitamin B6 is used for a great many processes in the human body innumerable times a day, doing such things as; manufacturing haemoglobin in red blood cells, helping cells in the manufacture of protein, releasing stored forms of energy, playing an important role in hormonal balance and fertility, having key functions in the immune system and manufacturing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which are involved in healthy brain function. Thus, it is responsible for; DNA repair, growth, providing relief from symptoms of premenstrual tension, reducing epileptic seizures and many other conditions.
Sources of vitamin B include barley, beans, chickpeas, eggs, green leafy vegetables, lentils, organ meats, soybeans, fish, poultry, potatoes, avocados and bananas.
Known deficiency symptoms are; anaemia, stress, constipation, diarrhoea, fatigue, forgetfulness, headaches, skin disorders, paranoid behaviour, heart palpitations, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, reproductive failures, anxiety, irritability, growth impairment, cheilosis (cracks at the corners of the mouth), and depression. Most of these symptoms are common problems in today’s society because of poor diet, over-consumption of alcohol and the use of barbiturates, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as paracetamol and Nurofen, oestrogen drugs such as hormone replacement therapy, aspirin, corticosteroids and the oral contraceptive pill which all affect the absorption and function of this important vitamin.
Vitamin B6 is essentially non-toxic but doses larger than the recommended therapeutic dose of 50mg per day can induce symptoms such as; abdominal distention, flatulence, hyperactivity, nausea, sleep disturbances and vivid dreams, and tingling along the left arm.
Vitamin B12 is essential for cell replication and red blood cell production as well as maintaining the myelin sheath which is the protective layer around nerves including the nerves in the brain, assisting in converting food to energy and plays an important role in the production of DNA and RNA which are the genetic material in cells. Low levels of stomach acid and low amounts of intrinsic factor, both of which occur in the elderly, can lead to absorbency issues and therefore deficiency states. However, as the body can store large amounts of vitamin B12, mostly in the liver deficiency can take several years to manifest.
Sources of B12 include; egg yolk, organ meats, salmon, sardines, milk, oysters, clams and Swiss cheese.
Deficiency may cause or be associated with Alzheimer’s disease as well as; anaemia, nerve damage, confusion, memory loss, depression, demyelination of the spinal cord, dizziness, schizophrenia and psychosis. Those that suffer with; coeliac disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial overgrowth in the gastrointestinal tract and hyperthyroidism have an increased demand for vitamin B12. Those that are vegetarian are also at risk of being deficient in vitamin B12 as
An excess of vitamin B12 is unknown as it is readily excreted in urine and there are no known adverse effects from high intakes of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B9 which is also known as folic acid and folate is most commonly known for it’s association with reducing the risks of birth defects but it is utilised a great many times a day to make red blood cells, build muscle and heal wounds along with every other process that requires cell replication. It is also well known for its role in regulating the body’s production and use of homocysteine (see below for more on homocysteine). Folic acid has been shown to ward off cancers namely those of the lungs, cervix, colon and rectum as it is critical in the formulation of DNA and RNA and ensures that cells duplicate normally – cancer cells are known to replicate abnormally.
Sources of folic acid include; barley, eggs, beans, green leafy vegetables, lentils, liver and organ meats and soybeans.
Known deficiency symptoms are similar to those shown with deficiency states of vitamin B6. Toxicity symptoms are similar to vitamin B6 as well.
Homocysteine is created naturally within the body. When methionine, an amino acid needed during metabolism, is converted, Homocysteine is produced. Excess amounts of homocysteine can lead to various health problems including; heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, miscarriage and other complications from pregnancy, and hypothyroidism.
Homocysteine levels are influenced by dietary, lifestyle and genetic factors. The vitamins B6, B9 and B12 assist in the safe breakdown of homocysteine. As we age our ability to absorb nutrients decrease. As a result less of the B vitamins are utilised to metabolise homocysteine. Homocysteine levels are also increased by certain pharmaceutical drugs, an aging metabolism, smoking, excessive alcohol and coffee consumption, lack of exercise, obesity and stress. Patients with high levels of homocysteine should increase their intake of B vitamins, both through their diet and with additional supplementation as high homocysteine levels are prevalent in Alzheimer’s sufferers who also commonly have a low B12 and folate nutritional status.
Supplements can be bought from our website shop at www.NutritionMission.co.uk/shop. All of our supplements are the best quality supplements available from reputable companies that maintain rigorous standards of practice when formulating their products. However, we would always recommend that you see your local Nutrition Mission nutritional therapist to assess what your nutrient requirements are so that you don’t end up getting too much of any vitamin leading to toxicity or wasting your money on vitamins that you don’t need. For more information please contact us at info@NutritionMission.co.uk.