Vitamin B-complex contains 8 different vitamins, and all of them are vital for your health. But three of them — B6, B12, and folic acid (B9) — are especially critical for your brain. Studies have shown that these vitamins may prevent mental decline, dementia, and even be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s by reducing levels of homocysteine.
“Homocysteine” – What’s That?
You may not be familiar with homocysteine as a health risk factor. Homocysteine levels are rarely discussed and very few doctors will check your levels. Call me cynical, but perhaps this is because there is no drug (or drug company incentives) for treating this.
Homocysteine is a potentially toxic amino acid that is a natural byproduct of protein digestion. Some is needed to build and maintain tissues. But when there is too much in the bloodstream, homocysteine damages the lining of the arteries contributing to increased risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and brain disorders. B6, B12, and folic acid work by breaking down homocysteine into harmless compounds.
A Promising Alzheimer’s Treatment
The results of a new study headed by Oxford University showed that vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid reduced brain atrophy, improved brain function, and dramatically reduced brain shrinkage in the part of the brain most affected in Alzheimer’s. (1) Study participants took 800 mcg of folic acid, 20 mg of B6, and 500 mcg of B12 over a 2-year period.
Below shows brain scans from the control group and the group that took B vitamins. The placebo image shows much more brain atrophy (areas in yellow) than the vitamin B group.
Here is what the spokesperson from the UK’s largest Alzheimer’s charity says about the study: “It’s too early to put everyone on B vitamins. The evidence for supplementing is just not there yet. We need bigger studies and more evidence that looks at what homocysteine is doing and what is actually going on in the brain.”
But studies would have to be government funded. Drug companies won’t do it since there is no money to be made here and supplement companies can’t afford to fund studies that cost many millions.
Don’t Wait ’til It’s Too Late
Frankly, by the time this information makes it into the medical mainstream, it will be way too late to help you and me!
After all, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that high levels of homocysteine doubled the risk for developing Alzheimer’s (2) in 2002, yet frustratingly little has been done with this information since then.
So here is what you can do right now to protect your brain against homocysteine damage and possibly Alzheimer’s.
- Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables like kale and collards, fruit, eggs, and organ meat for folic acid. Besides reducing homocysteine levels, folic acid is needed for the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
- The best food sources of vitamin B6 include fish, poultry, bananas, carrots, spinach, peas, and potatoes. B6 is essential to manufacture the neurotransmitters serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and GABA.
- B12 deficiency can play a role in memory loss, dementia, mood changes, and depression. Once you reach age 50 or so, it becomes increasingly difficult to absorb B12 from food. The only reliable food sources of B12 are animal products — meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. So this is one vitamin vegetarians are likely to be deficient in.
- Consider getting your homocysteine levels checked. You can ask your doctor to run the test, but be forewarned, he may try to talk you out of it. You can also order the test for yourself from an online lab like True Health Labs. (I think ordering your own medical tests is a fantastic idea for anyone who is uninsured, underinsured, or just likes more control over their own health!) Ideally your levels should be below 7. If not, you need to take action now.
Vitamin B Supplementation
Most people do not eat a diet that supplies enough of the B-complex vitamins or, for various reasons, do not absorb enough from what they eat. For instance, people who are under a lot of stress are universally low in B-vitamins. So if you suspect you are deficient in these brain-essential vitamins, you need to take supplements.
Interestingly, some people absorb folic acid better as a supplement than from food and many people, especially older folks, benefit from supplements because they don’t absorb the B12 from the food they eat.
Get a high-quality supplement like Wellness Resources Super Coenzyme B-Complex which contains natural coenzyme B-vitamins, the most absorbable form. It will cost you only pennies per day to protect your brain now and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s in the future.