Diminishing mental capacity is a normal part of the aging process. When it gets to the point where a person has difficulty remembering their name and address, Alzheimer’s may very well be a factor. A new study conducted by Washington University on B vitamins and brain function may hold some promise for Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Researchers claim the combined effects of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid can slow symptoms of diminished mental capacity by as much as seven times. This study appeared in the May 2013 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that affects a person’s memory and ability to process information. Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is found in different types of foods, such as yeast, green leafy vegetables, beans and fruits. It’s also available in nutritional supplement form. As the body does not manufacture folic acid, a person’s dietary intake becomes the only source for this nutrient. Unfortunately, the storage and preparation involved with today’s food production processes deplete anywhere from 50 to 95 percent of the folic acid content in foods.
The body relies on folic acid to carry out several bodily functions, such as manufacturing cell structures, DNA repair and DNA synthesis. As people age, levels of folic acid tend to decline accordingly. Researchers found older adults who supplemented their daily diet with folic acid showed improved memory function and faster information processing abilities.
Vitamin B6, found in nuts, meats, vegetables and bananas, is another nutrient that must be provided through daily dietary intake. Much like the loss of folic acid content in food due to processing, as much as 50 percent of a food’s B6 content is lost through food production practices.
Vitamin B6 is made up of three chemical compounds: pyridoxamine, pyridoxal and pyridoxine. Each of these compounds is involved in regulating cognitive and emotional functions in the brain. Their primary role in the brain helps to break down a chemical known as homocysteine. Researchers have found high levels of homocysteine to be present in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The addition of vitamin B6 supplements helps to reduce homocysteine levels and strengthen brain function.
As the body ages, vitamin B12 levels decline to the point where some people may actually develop B12 deficiencies. The symptoms associated with B12 deficiencies closely resemble those found in Alzheimer’s. Some of these symptoms include:
• Inability to concentrate
• Loss of memory
• Muscle weakness
The proper metabolism of B12 is also dependent on normal levels of folic acid being present in the body. Researchers concluded a combination of vitamins B12, folic acid and B6 provided the best results for slowing the rate of Alzheimer’s conditions.
Study: Vitamin B May Slow Alzheimer’s
Brain & Nervous System Health Center
Vitamin B12 Deficiency can Look Identical to Alzheimer’s Disease
Folic Acid Supplements Could Prevent Dementia
The effect of vitamin B6 on cognition