BBC News Health reports that vitamin B12 may help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A recent seven-year study of 271 subjects in Finland published in the medical journal Neurology found a connection between vitamin B12 deficiency and increased likelihood of dementia. Study respondents ranged in age from 65 to 79. They did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. At this stage, most experts are hesitant to advocate vitamin B12 supplements as any kind of “miracle cure” for Alzheimer’s disease.
The vitamin B12-homocysteine connection
Vitamin B12 is most typically found in meat, fish and eggs, as well as milk and fortified cereals. B vitamins and the body chemical homocysteine have been linked to Alzheimer’s for some time by scientists. Presence of homocysteine is believed to raise the risk of strokes and dementia. Increasing the amount of vitamin B12 in the blood is known to lower homocysteine levels and slow brain shrinkage, a condition associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
As the study progressed, some developed Alzheimer’s
Of the 271 study respondents, 17 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after seven years. Researchers found that vitamin B12 deficiency and increased homocysteine levels were common elements among those afflicted, while those with the highest levels of B12 tended to be healthier mentally. Professor Helga Refsum of the University of Oslo told the BBC that while the Alzheimer’s sample was “relatively small, (this study) should act as another incentive to start a large scale trial with homocysteine-lowering therapy using B vitamins.”
STEP it up
Alzheimer’s Research Trust CEO Rebecca Wood was more willing to recommend balanced diet, exercise and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure in check as the best path toward avoiding Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12 may be proven effective through future trials, however. In the meantime, scientists may want to attempt human trials with treatments that lower a protein called “STEP” that induces Alzheimer’s disease-like conditions in mice. It is currently unknown whether such treatments would be viable on human beings.
Vitamin B12 and brain shrinkage