B-vitamins Benefit Alzheimer's

B-vitamins found in oranges, legumes, leafy green vegetables and vitamin supplements are finally recognized as beneficial in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to a long-term National Institute on Aging study.

The study found that folate (the B-complex vitamin form of folic acid) has a powerful impact on reducing Alzheimer's risk. Folic acid and folate are forms of the water-soluble vitamin B9. Folic acid is important for the normal development of an unborn child (fetus). Folate is a closely related compound of folic acid.

Drs. Maria Corrada and Claudia Kawas, University of California, Irvine Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia1, analyzed the diets of non-demented men and women age 60 and older. They compared folate supplement intake of those who later developed Alzheimer's disease to the intake of those who did not develop the disease2.

Between 1984 and 1991, the study volunteers provided detailed dietary diaries, which included supplement intake and calorie amounts, for a typical seven-day period.

Fifty-seven of the original 579 participants developed Alzheimer's disease. But the researchers found that those with higher intake of folates, vitamin E and vitamin B6 shared lower comparative rates of Alzheimer's. Folate supplementation is associated with the most significant decrease in risk of developing the disease, which suggests that many people are not getting the recommended amounts of folates in their diets.

Recent Dutch research also shows a relationship between the folates and brain aging. In that study of adults aged 50, one group was supplemented with 800 micrograms of folic acid daily, while a placebo pill was administered to the other group, for a period of three years. The group using folic acid had significantly improved memory test scores, showing evidence that folates do slow cognitive decline. The researchers found that a pill of folic acid a day can improve brain function and memory in people over 50 years of age; and that taking folic acid daily improved cognitive functions, such as memory, as well as the speed at which information is processed3.

Folates (folic acid and folate) are necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells. This is especially important during periods of rapid cell division and during growth periods, such as in infancy and during pregnancy. Folates are needed to replicate DNA, and folate deficiency hinders DNA synthesis and cell division, affecting bone marrow and rapid cell turnover.

In 1931, folate was identified as the nutrient necessary to prevent anemia during pregnancy. Both adults and children require folate to produce normal red blood cells and prevent anemia. Research has demonstrated that anemia can be reversed with brewer's yeast, and folate was identified as the corrective substance found in brewer's yeast. Folate was extracted from spinach leaves in 1941, and was first synthesized in 1946.

Folates also help prevent changes to DNA that can lead to certain cancers. Several studies have associated diets low in folates with increased risk of breast, pancreatic, and colon cancer. Findings from a study of over 121,000 nurses suggest that long-term folic acid supplementation (over a 15 year period) is associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer in women 55 to 69 years of age4.

Only a small amount of folic acid is stored in the body. Therefore, to avoid vitamin deficiency, you must get folic acid regularly from foods in your diet. Folic acid is found in foods such as liver, kidney, yeast, organic grain products, fruits (bananas, oranges), leafy vegetables (turnip greens, spinach), eggs, whole-wheat bread, dried beans and peas, lima beans, sunflower seeds, and milk. Cooking and processing most often destroy the folates.

Dr. Hull's B-Complex

1 Vasich,T. University of California, Irvine. tmvasich@uci.edu.
2 Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.
3 The Lancet. January 20, 2007. London, UK.
4 Christensen B. (1996). "Folate deficiency, cancer and congenital abnormalities. Is there a connection?" Tidsskrift for den Norske Laegeforening. 250-4.

Posted March 2007 | Permanent Link

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