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Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia characterized by areas of tangled nerve fibers and clumped proteins called plaques in the brain. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s, can affect memory, mood, learning, communication, and thinking/reasoning (cognition). Because it’s a progressive disease, the symptoms worsen over time.
Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, most of the treatments focus on controlling the symptoms and slowing disease progression.
Several studies have demonstrated a connection between high blood levels of a substance called homocysteine and different types of dementia. B vitamins may lower homocysteine levels, but they haven’t always been successful in clinical trials at improving brain function in people with cognitive impairment. The study reported on here investigated the effect of a B-complex supplement on brain shrinkage, homocysteine levels, memory, and overall functioning in 156 people aged 70 years and older with mild cognitive impairment (a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease).
Participants either took a supplement containing 0.8 mg of folic acid, 20 mg of vitamin B6, and 0.5 mg of vitamin B12, or placebo for two years. Imaging of the participants’ brains was done at the beginning of the study (baseline) and after two years.Here’s what the study found:
“Our results show that B-vitamin supplementation can slow the atrophy of specific brain regions that are a key component of the Alzheimer’s disease process and that are associated with cognitive decline,” the researchers commented.
Having a family history of Alzheimer’s disease and simply getting older increase risk. While you can’t change these factors, there’s still a lot you can do to protect your brain and avoid Alzheimer’s disease:
Jean Carper, a health journalist who carries a gene that increases her risk of Alzheimer’s and author of the book, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s, says that any kind of berry may increase the birth and growth of new brain cells, thereby reducing risk. She also advises keeping blood sugar levels in check, as high levels are another risk factor for the disease.
(Proc Natl Acad Sci 2013;doi:10.1073/pnas.1301816110)