Can Vitamin B12 Healp For Alzheimer’s Disease

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Vitamin B12 is one of those ubiquitous vitamins that is needed in only miniscule amounts but is vitally important.

B12 deficiency can take years to show any symptoms, but when it does they include insomnia, , dizziness, balance problems, depression, digestive issues, eye problems, neurological damage, tinnitus or ear ringing and even hallucinations.

A recent study, published in the October 19, 2010, issue of the journal Neurology, showed vitamin B12 may have a protective role against Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

The study looked at 271 Finnish people between the ages of 65 and 79 who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. Over the seven years of the trial, blood samples were tested for homocysteine levels, an amino acid whose presence in the blood is associated with negative effects on the brain, such as stroke. It has been shown that higher levels of vitamin B12 lower levels of homocysteine. They also tested the blood for the active part of vitamin B12 called holotranscobalamin.

There is a great deal of scientific research that has found a connection between elevated levels of homocysteine and cognitive impairment. Although these studies can’t establish cause and effect, they are, nonetheless, related.

What the researchers found was that the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 16 per cent for every micromolar increase in the concentration of homocysteine. Conversely, every picomolar increase in holotranscobalamin, the active part of vitamin B12, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s by two per cent. Even after adjusting for age, gender, education, smoking status, blood pressure and body mass index, the results stayed consistent. “More research is needed to confirm these findings before vitamin B12 should be used solely as a supplement to help protect memory,” said the researcher.

There are a couple of things that can interfere with getting ample vitamin B12 from the diet. First off, it is only found in animal products, including fish, poultry and other meat products. While vegans can get some B12 from fortified foods like nutritional yeast or soy milk, rumors that B12 exists naturally in algae may be unfounded — these compounds are B12 analogues and not the real deal.

Another reason you may not be getting your B12 has to do with digestion. Your stomach produces a substance called “intrinsic factor” in order to absorb vitamin B12. Without intrinsic factor, no B12 can be absorbed. A poorly functioning stomach, one that isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid to digest food properly for example, whether to do with poor diet, aging or interference of antacid medications, leads to poor or no absorption of vitamin B12. And, as was stated in the opening of this piece, deficiencies can take years to show up.

Your doctor will be able to do a test to see if you’re B12 deficient, but if you have reason to believe you may be deficient, you can always supplement. Some B12 comes with intrinsic factor bound to it to increase absorption. Some B12 supplements are put under the tongue, bypassing the digestive system altogether and absorbed directly into the blood. In these cases, even if digestion is faulty, you’ll still be getting the necessary B12.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale

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