The brain is one of the hardest working, most important organs in the body. It also happens to be one of the most fascinating and confusing. All these elements combine to produce one of the deadliest, most mysterious health concerns: Alzheimer’s disease.
Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately, this prevalent health concern also comes without a cure.
Most often, the disease is diagnosed in patients over the age of 65. However, some less prevalent cases spring up earlier than that as early-onset Alzheimer’s. The illness worsens as it progresses and will eventually culminate in death.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
- More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease.
- 1 in 3 seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
Wikipedia points out that there are currently more than 26.6 million cases worldwide. By the year 2050, 1 in 85 people will be diagnoses with the illness.
An Interesting Medical Study
To date, Alzheimer’s remains one of the most baffling diseases known to the medical community. In 2012, more than 1,000 clinical trials were conducted. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have found ways to slow the onset. One such study provides promising results.
A group of researchers at Oxford University looked for ways to modify non-genetic risk factors. The route they took was to address elevated levels of homocysteine.
The Role of Homocysteine
Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid. High levels have been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia.
With the assistance of B vitamins, homocysteine can be recycled into methionine or converted into cysteine – essential amino acids.
In the Western population, homocysteine levels are commonly found between 10μmol/L and 12μmol/L. However, levels can easily exceed 20μmol/L in populations with low B-vitamin intakes and the elderly.
How B Vitamins Can Help
The research project at Oxford University, headed by Dr. Celeste A. de Jager, looked for ways to decrease levels of homocysteine, thereby reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The team established a randomized controlled study of 270 men and women over the age of 70. All study participants had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (which advances to Alzheimer’s disease in more than half the cases) and elevated levels of homocysteine.
The team found that high doses of certain B vitamins can prevent the shrinkage of key brain regions that are related to the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Patients were administered the following nutrient cocktail:
- Folic Acid – 0.8mg (twice the recommended dietary intake)
- Vitamin B6 – 20 mg (13 times the recommended dietary intake)
- Vitamin B12 – 0.5mg (208 times the recommended dietary intake)
These medical doses of the B vitamins were administered for two years. In that time, the shrinkage of the entire brain was slowed significantly. Meanwhile, a very important part of the brain showed even more promising results. The brain atrophy in the gray matter regions that are specifically vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease was reduced seven fold.
In the placebo group, the higher levels of homocysteine showed much faster gray matter atrophy.
Dr. de Jager and her collegues concluded the chain of events is as follows: homocysteine levels are reduced through the use of B vitamins, atrophy in the gray matter is slowed, cognitive decline is slowed, and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is delayed.
Further tests are necessary to determine if the progression to Alzheimer’s disease can be prevented entirely.
The Significance of This Study
While the world will have to wait patiently until the medical community can develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, this study provides hope. Not only can vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and folic acid work together to delay the onset of this deadly disease, the vitamin cocktail treats the illness naturally.
Patients don’t need to worry about harsh side effects. The treatment consists of naturally occurring elements that are essential for our overall health.
What do you think of these findings? Are you encourage by the outcome of these vitamins or find the treatment too “alternative” to be effective? Sound off in the comment section below.
About the Author
Jessica Velasco is a health and fitness writer who has recently become very interested in the topics of Alzheimer’s disease and vitamin B12. Both a vitamin deficiency and dementia have plagued her family in recent years – so the topics are of personal interest. She recently teamed up with Trim Nutrition to investigate B12 injections and the effectiveness of using vitamin injections to treat ailments as opposed to the oral form of supplementation. If you want to discuss the topic further, look Jessica up on Google+.
Office of Dietary Supplements
Image courtesy of Wikipedia and found here.