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Published on: October 11, 2010
by Penne Cole for Helium:
Alzheimer’s is arguably one of the most tragic diseases known to man. Quietly, insidiously, the disease steals a person’s very soul. It starts with the inability to form short term memories then progresses to robbing a person of his longer term memories. Confusion follows, with irritability and even aggression hard on its tail. Symptoms vary from person to person but inevitably, this degenerative disease that affects almost 27 million people worldwide will lead to death.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, one of society’s most expensive diseases. Hundreds of clinical trials have been run to try and find a treatment with little to show for it. But a recent study suggests that something as simple as vitamin B could be the key.
In a two-year study conducted by Oxford University and funded by the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council’s Neurosciences and Mental Health Board, scientists have gathered evidence that certain B vitamins can help to reduce the rate of brain shrinkage by up to 50%. While brain shrinkage is natural and a normal part of growing old, those with Alzheimer’s often experience greatly accelerated levels of shrinkage. Normal ageing is associated with as much as half a percent of brain shrinkage each year after age 60. However, in patients with Alzheimer’s, the brain can shrink at up to 2.5% per year.
Brain shrinkage is associated with elevated levels of the amino acid, homocysteine. Therefore, the Oxford University scientists reasoned that compounds that could help to control the levels of homocysteine in the blood might be a possible treatment. The B vitamins, folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are all known to regulate homocysteine.
The Oxford University clinical trial followed 168 volunteers over 70-years-old, all of whom had slight memory problems. Half of these volunteers were offered a daily high-dose vitamin B tablet containing the three B vitamins, while the other half were administered with placebos. The scientists used an advanced MRI technique to monitor the volunteers’ brain shrinkage.
At the end of the study, the numbers show that those on the vitamin B tablet had up to half the rate of brain shrinkage as those on the placebos. Patients with the highest rate of brain shrinkage at the beginning of the study showed the most improvement. Patients who were given the vitamin B tablets also had higher cognitive test scores.
While the results are still preliminary and further research needs to be conducted, these results are considered to be “immensely promising” and deserve further study. The extra strength vitamin B tablets, known as “TrioBe Plus” contain 300 times the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin B12 and four times the RDI for folic acid. The vitamins are currently prescribed under medical supervision in Sweden. While it is possible to create your own high-dosage vitamin B regimen, long term effects of these high-dosage B vitamins are unknown and high folic acid levels have been linked to cancer. Patients are advised not to self-medicate and to wait until further research has been conducted.
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