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The Role of B-Complex Vitamins in Alzheimer's Prevention

Recent research shows that dietary sources of B-complex vitamins can protect against cognitive decline and aid in Alzheimer’s prevention. Discover which foods contain the B vitamins you need to keep your brain healthy.

| December 2012 Web

  • “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook” is a full-color health guide for people with a family history of Alzheimer’s, other forms of cognitive decline or those already in the early stages.
    Cover Courtesy Ten Speed Press
  • Shellfish, such as clams, oysters and mussels provide a great source of one of the most important vitamins for neuronal health, B12 (Cyanocobolamin).
    Photo By Fotolia/

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2012), features nearly 100 recipes for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline. Discover the health benefits that B-complex vitamins provide in this excerpt taken from Chapter 3, “Vitamin B and the Brain.”

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook.

For years now, we’ve known that B-complex vitamins have myriad health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, and anemia. B vitamins—a whole family of closely related vitamins that consists of vitamin B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cyanocobolamin)—can also boost the digestive and immune systems, preserve the skin, and maybe even fight cancer.

More recently, scientists have begun to investigate the relationship between cognitive health and B vitamins. Recent epidemiologic data has shown that dietary sources of B vitamins, especially pyridoxine, folic acid, and B12, can protect us against Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline and dementia, with several studies demonstrating a link between cognitive decline in the elderly and low levels of these B-complex vitamins.

As in so many areas of Alzheimer’s research, we still have a lot to learn. While we’ve seen tangible evidence of their benefits time and again, we know very little about why B vitamins seem to do such a good job of protecting the brain. All we know is that a B12 deficiency can be a direct cause of dementia, and there’s a consistent association between deficiencies in B-complex vitamins, or low levels of vitamin B in the blood, and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

More generally, B-complex vitamins are essential for the nervous system to function. In contrast to many vitamins, B vitamins in supplement form have been shown to boost certain aspects of cognitive function. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning the body tends to eliminate them through urine. Because they’re not stored in large amounts in the body, they’re unlikely to reach toxic levels. And best of all, B vitamins are present in just about every natural food you can name. Most of us already get adequate levels of B vitamins in our diets, though less than we used to now that so many grains are processed and stripped of their natural nutrients. Some people, however, have trouble actually absorbing these vital nutrients in both dietary and supplement form, especially as they age. The only solution is to eat even more B-complex vitamins, thereby increasing the chances that adequate levels are absorbed by the stomach and small intestine. The older you get, the more B-complex vitamins you need to be eating.

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