Sep 9, 2010

Can Vitamin B Slow the Onset or Development of Alzheimer's and Dementia?

I like to think the B12 shot helped. I do know this, when we go to get that B12 shot today I'll feel good about it and maybe that helps me to be a better Alzheimer's caregiver.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

A new research study indicates that taking masses doses of Vitamin B slows the rate of brain shrinkage in the elderly. Like many studies these days this conflicts with earlier studies that indicate that Vitamin B doesn't make a difference.

There are lots of subtle differences in the various studies on Vitamin B and mild cognitive impairment, probable Alzheimer's, and dementia.

Before I go on let me digress for a moment.

Today I will be taking my mother for her monthly B-12 shot. She has been getting the shot monthly for about five years.

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I remember when I first read a research study that indicated that Vitamin B helps the brain and guards against brain shrinkage. I thought to myself, I'll discuss this with our personal care physician and see if there was any downside to giving my mother the shot monthly. He said no, and we started the monthly shot.

Along my long road of Alzheimer's caregiving, I read the B vitamins didn't help, I read too much B vitamin can hurt you, and I then I read they really do help. Here is what I wanted to know from our doctor. Was there any downside? He didn't think so, plus we could monitor her blood tests along the way. So I decided we will get the B12 shot and keep our eyes wide open.

This latest study on Vitamin B seems solid and one thing I gleaned from it is that you and I should probably be getting the B 12 shot.

I should mention while the list of things you can eat to get Vitamin B into your system is long, there is plenty of research that shows it is not that easy to get it by eating if you are older. The same is true about Vitamin D by the way.

A point of controversy, for me at least, is the very wide acceptable band from high to low that they use in current blood tests to test vitamin B levels. You can drive a truck through it. Scientist and doctors are learning those bands are too wide. So, if you get your B level checked via a blood test and you are anywhere near the bottom band consider some alternatives to get your Vitamin B level up.

Here is what I think. B Vitamins help the brain. When you get older your level of B tends to drop. In other words, that's life. You should be conscious of this. Good advice here: make sure you are getting b3, b6, b12 and lots of folic acid. Who knows, maybe you end up mild cognitively impaired (bad memory); and then Alzheimer's later rather then sooner. Who knows? Best case of course is no Alzheimer's dementia.

Keep this in mind also, I am not a doctor.

As far as Alzheimer's patients go. Did the B 12 shot and heavy doses of B and folic acid help my mother's brain after she already had Alzheimer's disease? Don't know? Is it possible that it slowed the shrinkage in her brain? Don't know. I would like to think it did. Did it hurt her. No it did not.

I like to think the B12 shot helped. But, I have no concrete evidence to prove it does.

I do know this, when we go to get that B12 shot today I'll feel good about it and maybe that helps me to be a better Alzheimer's caregiver.

Call me crazy, but if that is the case then it does help. Not in the way intended, but still helps.

I do believe that some of the things we did did help slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease in Dotty's brain. The list is long and I am not sure what helped the most. Although, I continue to suspect that exercise, bright light, socialization and good eating make a big difference.

Back to the new research study.

The study showed that those who took folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 had their brains shrink by about 25 percent less than those that didn't. That is a big amount.

You can read the in depth details of this study here -- Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Go down the webpage a bit until you reach the section entitled discussion and read on.

This article on Bloomberg is also very good -- Vitamin B Could Slow Advance of Alzheimer's, Oxford University Study Shows. It is like reading the cliff notes.

If you want to read more about Vitamin B, Vitamon D etc, go over to the search box on the right sidebar of this webpage and enter the word -- Vitamin.

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