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To “B” or not to “B”- What you Should Know About Vitamin B and the Alzheimer’s Diet

Posted by on Friday, May 24th, 2013

A study published on May 20, 2013 in the top-tier journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that vitamins B6 and B12 combined with folic acid slowed shrinkage of gray matter in brain areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. “These vitamins, in combination with a comprehensive management plan to improve and protect memory loss, is essential for AD management in 2013″ comments Dr. Richard Isaacson, Harvard-trained Neurologist and co-author of the best-selling new Alzheimer’s Diet book (with Columbia-trained nutrition expert Dr. Ochner), and author of the new book Alzheimer’s Treatment Alzheimer’s Prevention: A Patient & Family Guide.  This is the latest of a steady drumbeat of research that suggests diet, exercise and socializing remain patients’ best hope (click here to read the Bloomberg article to learn more).

With so much information bombarding us every day through TV commercials, the internet, apps, and more, it’s difficult to sort through it all when it comes to what’s best for our health. When it comes to vitamins, there is some exciting news; but how do vitamins work in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment and which are recommended for the Alzheimers diet?

vitamins for Alzheimer's prevention

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1 in every 6 older adults in the United States show signs of some sort of mild cognitive impairment today.  A recent study has given much hope to medical science when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention.  According to Celeste De Jager, Oxford neuropsychologist, Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid supplements given in prescribed doses were shown to decrease shrinkage of the brain and slow cognitive decline (which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease) by as much as 30% over the course of a 2 year study. 

Dr. Jager’s study involved 270 men and women over 70 years of age with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment).  According to research nearly 50% of this group will go on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within 5 years of the MCI diagnosis.


What is Homocysteine?

Homocysteine is a type of amino acid that can damage blood vessels and increase dementia when it occurs in high levels in the body.Vitamin B and folic acid have been shown to help minimize adverse effects of homocysteine.

“High homocysteine is a known risk factor for cognitive decline in the elderly and Alzheimer’s disease and also for other kinds of dementia like vascular dementia,” said de Jager. “It can be damaging to the endothelial lining of the blood cells. It also binds to receptors in the brain that are on the neurons and it seems to contribute the atrophy that’s associated with Alzheimer’s.”

As we age, levels of homocysteine naturally rise making us more likely to be affected by MCI and studies have shown that high levels of homocysteine increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Some experts think this may be due to decreased absorption of B vitamins when we get older.

In order to keep homocysteine levels at bay as we age, eating plenty of fish, meat, and green leafy vegetables is important from a nutritional stance.  

Foods High in Vitamin B

grass fed beef in alzheimer's diet

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While studies indicate that vitamin B supplements help to improve brain function, the body normally absorbs more nutrients from food than from supplemental sources.  That’s why it’s important to start eating more foods rich in vitamin B into your Alzheimer’s nutrition plan

Brain healthy foods High in B vitamins include; clams, oysters, crab, liver, mussels,caviar, lamb, beef, eggs, green leafy and dark green vegetables,  peanuts and legumes, spinach, enriched whole grain bread and cereal, fruit and more.  Keep in mind that large amounts of alcohol can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B so if you are drinking red wine as part of your healthy Alzheimer’s diet, be sure your alcohol intake is in small quantities.   Vitamin B12 is only available from animal sources. If you are eating more beef in your daily diet, grass fed beef is lowest in saturated fat.

Great Tasting Recipes with Seafood

lemon garlic shrimp for the Alzheimer's Diet

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Incorporating tasty seafood recipes into your daily Alzheimer’s diet is one way to ensure that you get the right amount of B vitamins including B12.  Try this tasty recipe for stir fry shrimp with spicy chili sauce.

Studies have shown the low levels of B12 are associated with cognitive and memory impairment.  

In Conclusion

While the research regarding vitamin B is encouraging, be aware that you should NEVER start taking large doses of vitamins without the consent of your physician.  According to Rebecca Wood Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Research UK; “People should speak to their doctor before embarking on any vitamin plan. Follow-up clinical trials must have a particular emphasis on establishing whether B vitamins could head off conversion from MCI to Alzheimer’s.”  To find out more about B vitamins and other supplements for Alzheimer’s prevention, order your copy of “The Alzheimer’s Diet” book written by Richard S. Isaacson, M.D., and Christopher N. Ochner, Ph.D.





For more easy to follow nutrition advice check out The Alzheimer’s Diet: A Step-by-Step Nutritional Approach to Memory Loss Prevention and Treatment, or visit to learn more about Neurologist, Dr. Richard Isaacson's 9 week diet plan and his cutting edge approach in the fight against AD in Alzheimer's Treatment | Alzheimer's Prevention: A Patient and Family Guide 2012 Edition. Also, sign up for the newsletter to get the latest updates in AD treatment and prevention news.

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