Back in October, I told you that a vitamin B12 deficiency is one common cause of Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Shortly after I published that article, a major story on preventing Alzheimer’s disease made international news. According to this report, you can cut your risk of the dreaded disease by 50% just by taking B
That’s right! You don’t need a drug to stop this disease. In fact, this story should prove for all time why taking drugs for disease maintenance won’t ever work. Scientists at the University of Oxford conducted a trial on 168 people. They gave them high doses of three vitamin B supplements every day. The results startled the scientists. The treatment reduced brain shrinkage associated with dementia by up to 53%.
The authors suggested the findings were so strong that it should open up a debate as to whether doctors should prescribe the vitamins to everyone with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Research shows that half of those with MCI will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. In the UK, MCI afflicts 16% of people over 70. That’s 1.5 million people in the UK. In the U.S., the number six cause of death is Alzheimer’s!
Could B vitamins be the simplest, yet most effective means to reverse the disease? The answer, according to the authors, is yes!
Professor David Smith is a pharmacologist who co-authored the study. He said the results are “immensely promising.” He went on to say: “It is a very simple solution. You give someone some vitamins and you protect the brain.”
This is the first trial that has shown a glimmer of hope and success. It is the first one of its kind that has worked so clearly. I think it will change the whole direction of Alzheimer’s research.
The human brain naturally shrinks in volume as we get older. By age 60, it’s shrinking by as much as half a percent a year. In those with MCI, it accelerates to one percent a year. With Alzheimer’s, the shrinkage skyrockets to 2.5% a year. With the shrinkage comes severe memory problems, slower thoughts, and confusion.
The research, published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE, is controversial. Why? Because it defies current scientific dogma about the way to tackle Alzheimer’s.
It suggests simply taking vitamins can achieve results that have so far evaded pharmaceutical companies. And that’s despite the millions of dollars Pharma has spent on experimental dementia drugs.
Instead of following the company line, the Oxford scientists set out in a new direction. They targeted the abnormal physical shrinkage of the brain by prevention! Here’s how they made their discovery.
I’ve told you in the past about homocysteine — an amino acid found in the blood. Higher levels cause brain shrinkage in the elderly. Reasoning that less homocysteine might help, and knowing that three B vitamins lower the amino acid, they divided the 168 volunteers (over age 70) into two groups and treated and followed them for 2.5 years. Half of them took a “dummy tablet” and half took a tablet with large doses of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6.
At the end of the trial, the researchers found the effects of the vitamin treatment were dramatic. In fact, the most pronounced benefit appeared in subjects who started out with the highest rates of brain shrinkage.
On average, taking B vitamins slowed the rate of brain atrophy by 30%. In many cases shrinkage reduced as much as 53%.
Professor Smith said: “This is a very striking, dramatic result. It’s much more than we could have predicted.”
The study was not designed to measure cognitive function directly. But, the researchers found that individuals with the lowest rates of shrinkage had the highest mental test scores. Dr. Smith said it’s still early to say exactly how vitamin B worked. But we know that the vitamins lower homocysteine, and they also support the membranes around your neurons!
Please, if you have noticed problems with cognitive function, or, if your doctor has told you that you have some brain shrinkage, please take plenty of B vitamins. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, this is one case where the benefits far exceed any risk (which is extremely low).
The doses the researchers used in this study were large. For B12, they were 300 times the RDA. The folate dosage was four times the RDA. And they took 15 times the RDA of vitamin B6. That computes to 900 mcg of B12, about 30 mg of B6, and 6 mg of folic acid. You can easily attain these doses by buying high potency individual vitamins at your health food store.
Ref: Alleyne, Richard. “Vitamin B is revolutionary new weapon against Alzheimer’s disease,” London Telegraph, September 9, 2010.
By Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD
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