How Can You Fight Alzheimer's if You Don't Eat Your Meat?

Two recent studies show the impact of vitamin B on the risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

Two recent studies show that vitamin B, particularly B12—found in dairy, eggs, fish, and meat, as well as some other foods—can help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

In the first study, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, found that elderly people with who had more of the active part of vitamin B12 in their blood had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than did counterparts with low levels. The researchers, led by Dr. Babak Hooshmand, warn that their findings don’t mean that vitamin B supplements will stave off mental decline.

"More research is needed before we can get a conclusion on the role of vitamin B12 supplements on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease," said Hooshmand, whose findings appear in Neurology. He added, however, that many older people suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, meaning his results could wind up being quite important. "Our findings indicate that vitamin B12 and related metabolites may have an important role in Alzheimer's disease," he said.

In the second study, a two-year clinical trial in England, researchers showed that vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, and folic acid can slow progression of mild cognitive impairment. According to Co-investigator Dr. Gustavo C. Román, medical director, Alzheimer & Dementia Center, the Methodist Neurological Institute, Houston, TX, those who exhibit signs of dementia and test positive for high levels of homocysteine—an amino acid that when found in high levels in the blood is linked to increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease—are more likely to respond well to large vitamin B doses, particularly when injected, versus being consumed as oral supplements.

"I'm not saying that everyone who takes B vitamins will prevent dementia," Roman said. "But in the right dosage and for the appropriate patients, the vitamin B-12 treatment could be a step toward modifying disease progression."

Would you advise your patients who are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, or those with mild cognitive impairment, to increase their intake of vitamin B? Or would you rather see additional evidence before doing so? Tell us what you think. Post a comment below, and get a conversation going with your colleagues.

*Bonus points to those who picked up on the awful Pink Floyd reference in the title.