Vitamin B slows down Alzheimer’s

brainMore research has been carried out showing that B vitamins can help to slow down wasting away of the brain by seven times. Carried out by a team of researchers from Oxford University the findings show that Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6 and folic acid can slow down the atrophy of the grey matter, implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
This is because the vitamins can lower the levels in the blood,  of homocysteine, an amino acid which is linked  to heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is it?

Doctors may know about homocysteine, but they rarely test for it, preferring to concentrate on cholesterol which most people are fully away of it.  However, homocysteine in high levels causes immense harm to our bodies. But a simple blood test similar to that for cholesterol, can identify high levels, and taking vitamin supplements can bring them down to safe levels.

• It is produced from protein in the diet and builds up in blood plasma – the fluid in which blood cells live;
• It attacks artery walls, injures the lining of the arteries taking blood from the heart, and thickens the walls of the arteries;
• This eventually results in a build up of plaque which blocks the blood flow as the space in them fills up, causing heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.


Risk factors:

There are a number of risk factors which make people more prone to high levels of homocysteine including:

• being overweight;
• a family history of heart disease, strokes or Alzheimers;
• diabetes and high blood pressure;
• genetic inheritance;
• deficiencies in folic acid and Vitamin B12;
• While homocysteine builds up in the body as people get older, it is more common in men than women at least before the menopause – afterwards it is about equal.

What doctors say

Dr Andrew McCaddon is a GP in Rhosllanerchrugog, North Wales, who has carried out studies of homocysteine levels in Alzheimer patients. ‘I have found in trials that Alzheimer patients have raised levels of homocysteine in their blood, and that in healthy people high levels are associated with a more rapid decline in mental faculties over a five year period.

‘As people get older their homocysteine levels increase, which may be because they aren’t eating well or not absorbing nutrients from food. It is also because one of the enzymes needed to break down homocysteine becomes ‘rusty’ as we age. Smoking is a big risk factor too, as well as some pharmaceutical drugs.

‘Vegans can be at risk of B12 deficiency because the best sources of the vitamin are in meat, fish and dairy products.’

So what can we do?

Eating a healthy diet rich in B12, B6 and folic acid and taking supplements can help:
A multivitamin containing about 200mcg of folic acid and all the B vitamins and the following foods may help someone who is not in the high risk bracket (see Nutrition Vitamins and Minerals). If the risk factor is high it is better to see a Nutritional Therapist.

The role of B12, B6 and folic acid

Vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid work together to protect the nervous system and manufacture red blood cells.

Vitamin B12 is found in animal products: meat, liver, tuna, oysters, sardines, shellfish, eggs, turkey, chicken, cottage cheese and milk. Deficiency can cause skin complaints, anxiety, tension, lack of energy, weakness, numbness, shortness of breath, tender muscles and severe anaemia.
Vitamin B6 is found in bananas, mangoes, nuts, potatoes, prunes, watermelon, chicken, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, broccoli, lentils, Brussels sprouts, onions, seeds and nuts. It is particularly popular for PMS symptoms such as fluid retention, breast tenderness, and acne. Deficiency causes period pains, problems in pregnancy such as high blood pressure, mood swings, loss of libido, depression, nervousness and insomnia.
Folic acid is found in green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, avocado, strawberries, wholegrains and liver. It is routinely given to pregnant women to reduce the risk of spina bifida in babies. Deficiencies cause fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, sore tongue and mouth, and anaemia.


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Dr Karim Janmohammed at the Greenwich Millennium Health Practice is enthusiastic. ‘If there’s anything we can do to prevent heart disease it’s a good thing. It’s a relatively simple treatment to decrease levels of homocysteine with folic acid and Vitamin B12, and they can be bought over the counter because they cost less than a prescription charge.’

Testing for homocysteine

But how do you know if your homocysteine levels are high? In theory everyone should be entitled to go to their doctor’s and request the blood test to find out if levels are too high. In practice the test is not particularly well known to GPs.

Some doctors are offering homocysteine testing in their practices but they are few and far between.

There are three options:

• Ask the GP’s practice or consultant whether or not they provide a homocysteine test on the NHS.
• Ask your GP for referral for a private test.
• Try your own test at home – go to Nutrition and click on the Yorktest ad above.

Homocysteine is measured in micromoles per litre (µmol) and a reading of about 10 is average in the UK. When it goes above 15 it is too high and needs attention.

Eve Knight, Service Development Officer of the British Cardiac Patients Association said, ‘We welcome self-testing in as much as it will enable people to find about homocysteine, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and Alzheimer’s. However, this must go hand in hand with education for both the public and GPs and lines of support for people who want to discuss their concerns.’

The British Cardiac Patients’ Association, Freephone: 0800 4792800,

The Alzheimer Disease Society, Helpline: 0845 300 0336,

Stroke Association, 0845 3033100,

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