Friday, December 10, 2010

B12 the shield against Alzheimer's!


The humble Vitamin B12 may be able to protect against the debilitating Alzheimer's disease, a Scandinavian study suggests. Senior citizens with more of the active part of the vitamin in their blood have a lower risk of developing the disease. However, the findings don't necessarily mean that taking B vitamin supplements will stave off mental decline.

For the study, the researchers took blood samples from 271 Finnish seniors without dementia. At a second examination about seven years later, they found 17 (six percent) had developed Alzheimer's.

Those who didn't develop the disease had higher levels of holotranscobalamin -- the active portion of vitamin B12 -- and lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid tied to mental decline, stroke and heart disease. Folic acid was not linked to Alzheimer's.

B vitamins decrease homocysteine levels, and so have attracted a lot of attention as a potentially cheap and safe treatment. But it is unclear if they are just a sign of disease or have a causal role. "More research is needed before we can get a conclusion on the role of vitamin B12 supplements on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease," Dr Babak Hooshmand from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, is reported to have said. But he added that many elderly people suffer from B12 deficiency, so the results could turn out to be important. "Our findings indicate that vitamin B12 and related metabolites may have an important role in Alzheimer's disease," Hooshmand told.

Vitamin B12 is found in a variety of foods, including dairy, eggs, fish and meat. Eggs are often mentioned as a good B12 source, but they also contain a factor that blocks absorption. While lacto-ovo vegetarians usually get enough B12 through consuming dairy products, vegans will lack B12 unless they consume multivitamin supplements or B12-fortified foods. Examples of fortified foods include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy products, fortified energy bars, and fortified nutritional yeast. Excessive alcohol intake lasting longer than two weeks can decrease vitamin B12 absorption from the gastrointestinal tract.


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