Vitamin B12 may protect against Alzheimer 's disease

Vitamin B12 is required for important biological functions like red blood cell production, nervous system function, and DNA synthesis. Deficiency in B12 can cause a variety of problems including anemia, depression, confusion, fatigue, digestive issues, and nerve damage. [1]

Vitamins. Flickr: bradley jVitamin B12 is scarce in plant-based diets, and is a common deficiency, especially in the elderly. Of course, diets low in animal products and high in unrefined plant foods dramatically reduce the risk of chronic disease, but these healthful diets do require a supplemental source of vitamin B12. The rates of deficiency increase with age, and about 20% of adults over the age of 60 are either insufficient or deficient in vitamin B12.[2] Recent research has suggested that the current recommendations for B12 intake may be inadequate – not just for the elderly, but even for young people who have adequate absorption capability. Therefore supplementation with vitamin B12 is likely important for most people, and absolutely required for most vegans to achieve sufficient B12 status.[3]

When vitamin B12 takes part in DNA synthesis, it helps to convert the amino acid homocysteine to methionine, therefore lowering homocysteine levels. [1] Elevated homocysteine is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Since B12 is important for nervous system function, and many cardiovascular disease risk factors are also risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists hypothesized that adequate vitamin B12 levels would be protective, and elevated homocysteine would be detrimental with respect to the development of Alzheimer’s. They investigated the relationship between homocysteine, B12, and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in a group of 271 healthy older persons (65-79 years of age) over the course of 7 years. Elevated homocysteine was associated with increased risk, and increased B12 with decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. [4]

Future studies will evaluate the effectiveness of vitamin B12 supplementation as a preventive measure against dementia, but we don’t need to wait for those results – we already know that B12 is an important supplement to take, and Alzheimer’s prevention may turn out to be an added benefit of maintaining adequate B12 levels.

A health-promoting diet is the most effective way to maintain excellent health and protect against chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But in order to enjoy the strongest protection possible, it is just as important to prevent deficiencies of certain nutrients that may be sub-optimal in an overall health-promoting diet, such as vitamin B12, zinc, DHA, and vitamin D, by taking the necessary supplements.

 

References:

1. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12. November 18, 2010]; Available from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12/.
2. Allen, L.H., How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency? Am J Clin Nutr, 2009. 89(2): p. 693S-6S.
3. Bor, M.V., et al., Daily intake of 4 to 7 microg dietary vitamin B-12 is associated with steady concentrations of vitamin B-12-related biomarkers in a healthy young population. Am J Clin Nutr, 2010. 91(3): p. 571-7.
4. Hooshmand, B., et al., Homocysteine and holotranscobalamin and the risk of Alzheimer disease: a longitudinal study. Neurology, 2010. 75(16): p. 1408-14.

 

Conventional prenatal vitamins may do more harm than good

It is imperative for me to make women aware that they may be endangering their health and the health of their unborn children by using conventional supplements.

Nearly all multivitamins and prenatal vitamins contain folic acid.

Unlike most physicians, I do not recommend folic acid supplementation for pregnant women.  Folic acid supplementation can damage the health of women and their children.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a member of the family of B vitamins that is involved in regulating DNA synthesis and gene expression. Because of these crucial functions, folate plays an important role in fetal development - folate is essential during pregnancy, especially early on in pregnancy, for the prevention of neural tube defects. Folate is abundant in green vegetables like spinach, collards, bok choy, artichokes, and broccoli.spinach

The Standard American Diet (SAD) is so nutritionally inadequate that the U.S. government and most physicians encourage women to take folic acid supplements, assuming that they do not eat green vegetables and are folate deficient.

Taking synthetic folic acid is not the same as getting natural folate from vegetables.

Scientific studies have revealed the dangers to women and their children involved in taking folic acid supplements:

  • Women who followed the typical recommendations to take folic acid during pregnancy and were followed by researchers for thirty years were twice as likely to die from breast cancer.1   Another study following women for ten years concluded that those who took multivitamins containing folic acid increased their breast cancer risk by 20-30%.2   Folic acid in supplement form may contribute to producing a cancer-promoting environment in the body – in addition to breast cancer, synthetic folic acid has been linked to dramatic increases in prostate and colorectal cancers, as well as overall cancer incidence.3
  • Folic acid supplementation by pregnant women has been associated with incidence of childhood asthma, infant respiratory tract infections, and cardiac birth defects.4

However, food folate is associated with benefits for both women and children:

  • Women with lower levels of food folate intake are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.5
  • The children of women who consumed more food folate during pregnancy were less likely to develop ADHD.6
  • Several studies have made connections between vegetable intake during pregnancy and lower risks of childhood cancers.7

This is too important an issue to ignore, and women are simply not told the facts here.

I needed to take action and supply a prenatal and other supplements that did not contain folic acid as well as other supplemental ingredients with documented risk. 

 My Gentle Prenatal contains the same carefully designed combination of vitamins and minerals present in my original multivitamin and mineral, Gentle Care Formula, but has been uniquely tailored to the needs of child-bearing and pregnant women. 

Read more about my Gentle Prenatal

 

 

 

References:

 [1] Charles D et al. Taking folate in pregnancy and risk of maternal breast cancer. BMJ 2004;329:1375-6

[2] Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ et al. Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):895-904.

[3] Fife, J et al. Folic Acid Supplementation and Colorectal Cancer Risk; A Meta-analysis. Colorectal Dis. 2009 Oct 27. [Epub ahead of print]

Hirsch S et al. Colon cancer in Chile before and after the start of the flour fortification program with folic acid. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Apr;21(4):436-9.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/591111

Figueiredo JC et al. Folic acid and risk of prostate cancer: results from a randomized clinical trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Mar 18;101(6):432-5. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

Ebbing M et al. Cancer Incidence and Mortality After Treatment With Folic Acid and Vitamin B12. JAMA. 2009;302(19):2119-2126

[4]   Whitrow MJ. Effect of Supplemental Folic Acid in Pregnancy on Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print]

Haberg SE, London SJ, Stigum H, Nafstad P, Nystad W. Folic acid supplements in pregnancy and early childhood respiratory health. Arch Dis Child. 2009 Mar;94(3):180-4. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

Källén B. Congenital malformations in infants whose mothers reported the use of folic acid in early pregnancy in Sweden. A prospective population study. Congenit Anom (Kyoto). 2007 Dec;47(4):119-24.

[5] Sellers TA et al. Dietary folate intake, alcohol, and risk of breast cancer in a prospective study of postmenopausal women. Epidemiology. 2001 Jul;12(4):420-8.

Kim YI. Does a high folate intake increase the risk of breast cancer? Nutr Rev. 2006 Oct;64(10 Pt 1):468-75.

[6] Wiley-Blackwell (2009, October 28). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Problems Associated With Low Folate Levels In Pregnant Women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/10/091028134631.htm

[7] Kwan ML et al. Maternal diet and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Public Health Rep. 2009 Jul-Aug;124(4):503-14.

Tower RL et al. The epidemiology of childhood leukemia with a focus on birth weight and diet. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2007;44(3):203-42.

Petridou E et al. Maternal diet and acute lymphoblastic leukemia in young children.Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1935-9.

Jensen CD et al. Maternal dietary risk factors in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (United States).Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Aug;15(6):559-70.

Huncharek M et al. A meta-analysis of maternal cured meat consumption during pregnancy and the risk of childhood brain tumors. Neuroepidemiology. 2004 Jan-Apr;23(1-2):78-84.