Vitamin B: Alzheimer’s Might Have Met Its Match

    May 21, 2013
    Amanda Crum

A new study published this week shows that vitamin B may be just the thing scientists have been looking for when it comes to Alzheimer’s patients.

“Our work shows that a key part of the disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s disease, the atrophy of specific brain regions, might be modified by a safe and simple intervention,” said Dr. David Smith, who led the study.

The study–which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences–found that people who took part in a trial had 90% less brain shrinkage when given a dose of vitamin B on a regular basis than those who took a placebo. The areas of the brain that are affected by the disease were protected by the vitamin, including the parts that determine how we learn and how we remember and organize our thoughts.

“I’ve never seen results from brain scans showing this level of protection,” said Paul Thompson, professor of neurology and head of the Imaging Genetics Center at UCLA School of Medicine, California.

The study was conducted previously with only 50% less brain shrinkage determined in the participants. This new trial marks the beginning of a new path for scientists, who have hit blockage after blockage while trying to find a cure–preventative or otherwise–for the disease. Those in charge of the study say that a combination of B-6, B-12, and folic acid was exactly what they were looking for. Because vitamin B keeps amino acids in check–particularly homocysteine, which becomes a brain chemical that controls memory–a healthy dose of it later in life could prevent brain shrinkage.

“The study needs to be repeated because there’s a lot to learn about why homocysteine is damaging and whether lowering it can stop people with memory problems progressing to Alzheimer’s,’ says Professor Thompson. ‘But if the results survive retesting, homocysteine level could be a useful biomarker for Alzheimer’s risk.”