Vitamin B12 Can Help Combat Dementia – Antioxidant Benefits

Vitamin B12 Can Help Combat Dementia – Antioxidant Benefits

A recent study published in The Lancet reports a significant increase in cases of dementia worldwide, with a projected tripling by 2050. However, there is promising emerging research indicating that Vitamin B12 may help slow down the progression of this neurodegenerative disease.

A healthy brain

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy brain and nerve function and has been dubbed a “superhero in neurology.” According to Dr. J. David Spence, Professor Emeritus of Neurology and clinical pharmacology at Western University in Ontario, Canada, B12 and folate are crucial for DNA synthesis, which is necessary for the proper functioning of cells, including neurons.

Folate, another B vitamin, works in close conjunction with B12 to form neurons.

The synthesis of neurotransmitters, which transmit signals between nerve cells, requires Vitamin B12.

This vitamin is involved in producing serotonin and dopamine, two chemicals whose reduced levels have been linked to dementia.

Additionally, Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in forming and maintaining the myelin sheath, a fatty substance that insulates nerve fibers and enables efficient nerve signal transmission.

Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to neuropathy and myelopathy, causing issues with coordination and balance. Dementia is another potential consequence.

B 12 is a powerful antioxidant

Although vitamins C and E are commonly known as antioxidants, recent research has shown that vitamin B12 also has strong antioxidant properties that can reduce oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress prompts inflammation to repair damage, but prolonged inflammation can lead to various illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease.

In Alzheimer’s, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases, neurons in the brain gradually die off, connections between them deteriorate, and brain regions shrink.

Neurons are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress because they have low levels of glutathione, which is an antioxidant that eliminates free radicals, and high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can react with free radicals and cause damage, as noted in a 2022 study published in Biomolecules.

According to the study authors, antioxidants could serve as potential therapies to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease. They also pointed out that B12 is particularly intriguing among vitamins since it possesses both antioxidant properties and the ability to interfere with Alzheimer’s disease pathways.

Slowing cognitive decline

Researchers have studied the potential neuroprotective role of vitamin B12 in slowing down the onset of dementia. Observational studies have found that individuals with low levels of B12 experience faster cognitive decline and are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A study in Sweden discovered that B12 levels below 250 picomoles per liter (pmol/l) — which is lower than the normal range of 260 to 1,200 pmol/l — doubled the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in adults over the age of 75 within three years, particularly if they were also deficient in folate.

Additionally, a 10-year cross-sectional longitudinal study found that low levels of B12 could sometimes precede cognitive decline. Researchers have suggested that correcting B12 deficiency may benefit seniors who are cognitively impaired.

2020 important study

In a 2020 study, B12 replacement therapy was tested on 202 patients who were both deficient in vitamin B12 and experiencing impaired cognition and memory.

Of these participants, 84 percent reported significant symptom improvement after treatment.

Most of them also scored higher on the Mini-Mental State Examination, which is a screening tool for cognitive impairment.

Dr. Spence, known for his research on the link between B12 deficiency and dementia, witnessed the effectiveness of B12 when an injection helped an older woman who was severely deficient while he was an intern.

“[She] was literally on the gurney about to be taken back to the nursing home by ambulance,” he said.

“Her family doctor called me three days later to tell me that [her cognitive function] had improved remarkably,” he added. “That was one of the reasons I became interested in vitamin B12.”

Dr. Spence states that taking a specific type of vitamin B12, either methylcobalamin or hydroxocobalamin, can potentially prevent dementia and even improve it if taken early enough.

He warns against using cyanocobalamin, as it can be toxic for people with impaired kidney function, which is often the case for older individuals.

Preventing dementia

According to both scientific literature and anecdotal accounts, B12 plays a significant role in preventing dementia. However, Dr. Pamela Frank, a licensed naturopathic physician, emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach.

She believes that dementia is a complex, chronic illness that is unlikely to be caused by just one factor, such as B12 deficiency.

Rather, there are likely multiple contributing factors.

In addition to maintaining optimal B12 levels, Dr. Frank recommends engaging in daily aerobic exercise. For example, a brisk 30-minute walk every morning can strengthen the circulatory system and increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is associated with a lower risk of dementia. Being outdoors can also improve mood and vitamin D levels, which helps to maintain neuron health.

Dr. Frank also stresses the importance of healthy sleep habits, as sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of dementia. Additionally, minimizing sugar intake is crucial, as high blood sugar-induced inflammation can damage the blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to the brain, impairing circulation. This, in turn, worsens dementia symptoms and can lead to brain inflammation.

Rada Mateescu

Passionate about freedom, truth, humanity, and subjects from the science and health-related areas, Rada has been blogging for about ten years, and at Health Thoroughfare, she's covering the latest news on these niches.

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