— Article by By Dr. Mercola —
Alzheimer’s disease is currently at epidemic proportions, with 5.4 million Americans – including one in eight people aged 65 and over – living with Alzheimer’s disease.1 By 2050, this is expected to jump to 16 million, and in the next 20 years, it is projected that Alzheimer’s will affect one in four Americans.
While the cause of this condition is believed to be a mystery, it’s becoming increasingly clear that what you eat, or don’t eat, can influence your risk as well as the rate at which the disease progresses. B group vitamins, in particular, especially folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, are again making headlines for their powerful role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
High levels of the amino acid homocysteine are linked to brain shrinkage and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. B vitamins are known to suppress homocysteine. In a 2010 study, 2 participants received relatively high doses of B vitamins, including:
The study was based on the presumption that by controlling the levels of homocysteine, you might be able to reduce the amount of brain shrinkage, which tends to precipitate Alzheimer’s.
Indeed, after two years those who had received the vitamin-B regimen suffered significantly less brain shrinkage compared to those who had received a placebo. In those who had the highest levels of homocysteine at the start of the trial, their brains shrank at half the rate of those taking a placebo.
The latest study takes this research a step further, showing not only that B group vitamins may slow brain shrinkage but that it may specifically slow shrinkage by as much as seven-fold in brain regions specifically known to be most impacted by Alzheimer’s disease.
Among participants taking high doses of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, blood levels of homocysteine were lowered as was the associated brain shrinkage – by up to 90 percent. The researchers noted:
"… B vitamins lower homocysteine, which directly leads to a decrease in GM [gray matter] atrophy, thereby slowing cognitive decline. Our results show that B-vitamin supplementation can slow the atrophy of specific brain regions that are a key component of the AD [Alzheimer’s disease] process and that are associated with cognitive decline."
According to a small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology,4 people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin), the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced by 2 percent.
This makes a strong case for ensuring your diet includes plenty of healthful B-vitamin sources, such as meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and wild-caught fish. Leafy green vegetables, beans and peas also provide some B vitamins, but if you eat an all vegetarian or vegan diet, vitamin B12 is one of the nutrients your body is most likely deficient in, as it is naturally present in foods that come from animals, including meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products.
This is also a strong argument to use fermented foods and limit sugar intake. Consider that the entire B group vitamin series is produced continually within your gut, assuming it is continually replenished and reseeded with healthy flora from organically grown raw foods, particularly the flora-dense cultured traditional fermented foods, e.g. yoghurt, sauerkraut, or failing that, a good probiotic supplement.
Even if you eat animal foods, vitamin B12 requires a complex system in your body involving intrinsic factor to bind to it so it can be actively absorbed in the end of your small intestine (terminal ileum). As you grow older, the ability to produce intrinsic factor decreases and may cause a deficiency state. Studies from the U.S. Framingham trial show one in four adults are deficient in vitamin B12, and nearly half the population has suboptimal blood levels.
This is important to be aware of, and correct if it applies to you, as people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to score lower on cognitive tests, as well as have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of the vitamin may lead to brain shrinkage.5
A previous study on the impact of vitamin B12 on brain wasting also found that seniors with lower vitamin B12 levels at the start of the study had a greater decrease in brain volume at the end.6 Those with the lowest B12 levels had a six-fold greater rate of brain volume loss compared with those who had the highest levels.
Interestingly, none of the participants were actually deficient in vitamin B12 — they just had low levels within a normal range. This goes to show that “normal” is not necessarily the same as “optimal” when you’re talking about nutrients. You don’t have to be clearly deficient in order to experience a decline in brain health. The study’s lead researcher commented on this, saying:
“Our results suggest that rather than maintaining one’s B12 at a level that is just above the cut-off for deficiency, it might be prudent to aim to keep it higher up than normal range.”
Hearing about the benefits of B vitamins for your brain health might make you consider trying a supplement. However, it’s important to know the difference between folic acid and folate before you do. Although often used interchangeably, folic acid is a synthetic type of B vitamin used in supplements and fortified foods, while folate is the natural form found in foods. Think: folatecomes fromfoliage (edible leafy plants) and not supplement bottles as a guideline.
There is some research suggesting that taking high doses of synthetic folic acid may actually increase your risk of cancer, immune system damage or other health problems.7 Further, in order for folic acid to be of use to your body, it must first be activated into its biologically active form – L-5-MTHF. This is the form that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to give you the brain benefits noted. However, nearly half of the population has difficulty converting folic acid into the bioactive form because of a genetic reduction in enzyme activity. For this reason, if you take a B-vitamin supplement, make sure it contains natural folate rather than synthetic folic acid.
Ensuring you have adequate levels of B vitamin in your diet is just one dietary strategy to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and protect your brain health, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, and starve yourself of enough essential fatty acids, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of insulin and eventually shuts down its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, and eventually causing permanent brain damage.
Alzheimer’s disease was tentatively dubbed “type 3 diabetes” in early 2005 when researchers learned that the pancreas is not the only organ that produces insulin. Your brain also produces insulin, and this brain insulin is necessary for the survival of your brain cells – that is, until the brain starts resisting chronically elevated levels of it, and it becomes toxic.
You may already know I have become passionate about warning of the dangers of fructose. There is no question in my mind that regularly consuming more than 25 grams of fructose per day will dramatically increase your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Consuming too much fructose will inevitably wreak havoc on your body’s ability to regulate proper insulin levels.
In one study from UCLA, researchers found that rats fed a fructose-rich and omega-3 fat deficient diet (similar to what is consumed by many Americans) developed both insulin resistance and impaired brain function in just six weeks.8 Additionally, recent research has also shown that intermittent fasting also triggers a variety of health-promoting hormonal and metabolic changes similar to those of constant calorie restriction – including reduced age-related brain shrinkage.
According to Professor Mark Mattson, head of neuroscience at the US National Institute on Ageing:9 “Suddenly dropping your food intake dramatically – cutting it by at least half for a day or so – triggers protective processes in the brain.” He likens the effects to those from exercise, stating intermittent fasting could help protect your brain against degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Yours in health,
The BioTree Labs Team
Click here: http://biotreelabs.com
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