This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Alzheimer’s disease is pathologically characterized as a reduction in brain volume, commonly referred to as shrinkage, as well as amyloid protein tangles that prevent efficient communication between neurons by altering chemical and electrical signaling.
While select nutrients effectively cross the blood-brain barrier to counteract reduced brain volume and naturally clear protein clumps that threaten memory retention and normal cognitive well being, one class of vitamins continues to outshine the rest with its ability to reduce brain shrinkage.
Researchers from the University of Oxford, publishing the result of a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have determined that high-dose B-vitamin treatment can slow the atrophy of specific brain regions that are a key component of the Alzheimer‘s disease process commonly associated with cognitive decline.
Prior studies have identified elevated levels of the protein amino acid known as homocysteine with significantly increased risk of depression and development of dementia. Homocysteine is a toxic breakdown compound that is elevated in the blood due to a diet high in animal proteins, and also contributes to increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Elevated homocysteine levels persist when intake of the B vitamins, folic acid and B-12 are limited, commonly seen with a diet high in animal protein and lacking in vegetables and fruits. To conduct the study, scientists evaluated 156 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment. Eighty participants were given a combination of vitamin B-12 (500 mcg), B-6 (20 mg) and folic acid for a period of two years. A second group received placebo pills.
Researchers found that those who received the B vitamin treatment demonstrated significantly less brain shrinkage as compared to the placebo group. Lead study author Dr. David Smith commented, “In those with high homocysteine levels… disease shrank eight times more slowly in those taking B vitamins than in those on the placebo… this is strongly indicative that the B vitamins may be substantially slowing down, or even potentially arresting, the disease process in those with early stage cognitive decline.”
The research team noted that this is the first Alzheimer’s disease treatment shown to potentially arrest the advancement of pathology and symptoms, with no toxic pharmaceuticals or side effects. Dr. Smith concluded, “This makes the need for early screening for the first signs of cognitive decline from the age of 50… our study shows that those with a homocysteine level above 10mcmol/l, which is about half of all people over age 65, potentially may benefit with reduced brain shrinkage by taking high dose B6, B12 and folic acid.”
Men and women over the age of 35 should have their homocysteine levels checked annually, and supplement daily with a high potency B-vitamin complex to dramatically lower the risk of developing dementia and cardiovascular disease.