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Vitamin B May Help Reduce Brain Atrophy Associated With Alzheimer's

High levels of plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) have been linked with cerebral atrophy of brain regions related to cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. A recent study suggests that taking high doses of vitamin B may lower mean plasma tHcy levels by 29% and a decrease in cerebral atrophy.

The study included 156 mature adults with diagnoses of mild cognitive impairment (the first stage of dementia leading to Alzheimer’s). Over the course of two years, they took either a combination of 500 mcg of vitamin B12, 20 mg of B6 and folic acid or a placebo.

At the conclusion of the study, the researchers noted that brain shrinkage in the part of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s was eight times slower in the vitamin B group, compared to the placebo group. They attributed this slowdown of atrophy to the lowering of homocysteine levels.

They noted that the beneficial effect of the supplementation was only seen in participants with initially high homocysteine levels.

Researchers from Oxford University conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on May 20, 2013, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

B vitamins have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reducing breast cancer risk, nervous system function, red blood cell formation, and hormone function. Studies have also suggested that B vitamins may reduce the risk of stroke, hearing loss, and birth defects.

Our bodies do not naturally synthesize B vitamins. However, it is easy to increase your intake by eating more folate- rich foods. Some foods rich in folate include liver, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupes, and other melons. Folic acid can be found in supplement form and as an additive in foods such as bread, cereal and grains.

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