Dr. Steve Chaney
B Vitamins, Dementia & Alzheimers
Dr. Chaney is an active cancer researcher and Professor of Bio-Chemistry and Nutrition at UNC Medical Schoool.
“As we age there is perhaps nothing more frightening than the thought of losing our mind.
We can cope with lots of physical infirmities, but it is our memories and our cognition that make us who we are.
So what can we do to keep our mind in tip top shape as we age?
I’m going to start by talking about the importance of one B vitamin, folic acid, in maintaining our mental acuity as we age.
But, good health is seldom determined by one nutrient alone, so I’m going to end this discussion by
describing a holistic approach for reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Two recent articles have emphasized the importance of folic acid in preventing cognitive decline.
The first was a cross-sectional study of folate status and cognitive function in 1,033 non-demented older patients, ages 60-90 (de Lau et al, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 86: 728-734, 2007). The researchers measured blood levels of folic acid and did extensive cognitive tests on the subjects.
The results were fairly clear-cut. Those people with the highest levels of folic acid were the least likely to suffer from loss of cognitive function or psychomotor speed (reaction time).
But, cross-sectional studies are not the gold-standard placebo controlled clinical trial, which is why the second study is so important.
In this study, 818 middle aged subjects (ages 55-70) with normal vitamin B12 levels (the importance of this will become apparent in a minute) were given either 800 ug of folic acid or a placebo daily and followed for 3 years (Durga et al, Lancet, 369: 208-216, 2007).
At the end of 3 years, the subjects receiving the folic acid supplement did significantly better than the placebo group on several measures of cognitive function.
So you might be thinking that you should rush right out and buy a folic acid supplement.
Not so fast. You need to hear the rest of the story.
Vitamin B12 is also essential for cognitive function, and, with consumption of red meat declining, many older Americans are becoming deficient in B12.
B12 deficiency has two symptoms:
The first to appear is anemia. It is what usually brings the patient to their doctors office, and at this stage the B12 deficiency is easily reversible.
However, if the B12 deficiency is left untreated, the patient will eventually develop dementia that is not reversible.
The problem is that folate supplementation can mask the early, easily reversible, symptoms of B12 deficiency.
So that brings us to the third clinical study (Morris et al, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 85: 193-200, 2007).
This study was a cross-sectional study looking at vitamin B12 status, folic acid status and cognitive function. When they looked at those subjects in the study with low vitamin B12 status, the ones who also had high blood folate levels actually faired poorer on cognitive tests than those with low blood folate levels.
So now you’re probably thinking that you should rush out and buy a B complex supplement providing both folic acid and vitamin B12.
Some older Americans develop an inability to produce something called intrinsic factor that is required for the rapid absorption of vitamin B12 in the intestine. Those people cannot get enough vitamin B12 from their food, and for them a standard vitamin B12 supplement is of little use. Knowing this, you might now feel that there is no effective way to make absolutely sure that you are getting enough B vitamins to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
But, you’d be wrong again.
There is a second, intrinsic factor-independent pathway for absorbing vitamin B12 that is present throughout the entire length of the digestive tract.
So what you want to look for is a sustained release B complex that releases its B12 a little bit at a time throughout the digestive tract.
And since not all companies make their supplements according to pharmaceutical standards, you would want to make sure that this sustained release B complex had been shown in a clinical trial to deliver at least as much B12 to the blood stream as an immediate release B complex in individuals with normal levels of intrinsic factor.
Finally, now that you know what to look for in a B complex supplement, let me remind you that mental acuity is not just dependent on two B vitamins.
Recent studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, maintaining ideal body weight and exercising regularly all help us to keep our brains functioning as they should as we age.
A holistic approach to health is always best.
To Your Health!
Dr. Stephen G Chantey
P.S. The Sustained Release B + C in Shaklee’s Vitalizer continuously releases small amounts of the B vitamins and Vitamin C during the 12 hours that it takes to pass through the small intestine.
Clinical studies have shown that his results in up to a 200% increase in blood levels of some B Vitamins and that blood levels of Vitamin B12 are equal to or greater than the same amount of B12 in the immediate release B-Complex Supplement.