Updated: Jan 3, 2020
Several years ago, news came out that taking B12 could help slow down or prevent cognitive decline and, in particular, Alzheimer’s. Since then, B vitamins have taken centre stage in the (supplemental) fight against this condition. An article by medical journalist Jerome Burne is, in my opinion, the best at explaining where B vitamins stand.
It’s worth reading the article he wrote for the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2327993/Should-taking-vitamin-B-protect-Alzheimers.html.
Even more interesting is Jerome’s blog on the bits that were left out of the above article. To put in a nutshell, a 2-year trial of patients on high dosage B12 showed significant drop in brain shrinkage as measured by a brain scan. In spite of this result, Alzheimer’s charities called for more research. One trial which was partially funded by the Medical Research Council showed that taking B vitamins showed a 90% reduction in brain shrinkage! However, Alzheimer’s charities including Alzheimer’s Research UK at that time (2013), were advising instead a healthy diet and exercise. As Jerome himself puts it “[this has] been promoted as the solution to obesity and diabetes for the last 20 years and look how well that has worked.” For the full blog article see: http://jeromeburne.com/2013/05/21/alzheimers-we-want-a-cure-but-please-dont-mention-b-vitamins/.
Why might we need a supplement?
For some of us, getting our quota of B12 from diet alone may be just possible but if you are over 50 or vegetarian or vegan, or on a type of medication that blocks the uptake of the vitamin, it becomes much harder to get sufficient amount from diet alone.
The natural form of B12 is found in animal and dairy sources. There are some vegetable sources of B12 but they contain substances that, at the same time, block the body’s uptake of this vitamin.
As we get older, our digestive systems produce less hydrochloric acid which is the key ingredient to help us absorb B12 from our food. This is why we become B12 deficient as we get older.
Some medicines interfere with our bodies’ mechanism for producing hydrochloric acid, affect our ability to absorb B12 or reduce the amount of B12 in our bodies. These include antacids, Metformin, birth control pill, cholesterol lowering medication and many others.
Why are B vitamins so important?
Apart from the relation to cognitive decline, all of the B vitamins provide energy. They help us convert our food into energy and without this energy, we can run into all sorts of problems. In stressful times, the body will use up more B vitamins so if we become deficient and we’re not eating enough natural food sources, we find it harder to cope with stress and we lack energy.
Since all B vitamins work best together, it makes good sense to take a high quality B complex. B12 has been getting into the news because of its support for cognitive decline. The other Bs also play a part in boosting our health.
B5 is for anti-stress and acne.
B6 is for anxiety and depression.
B2 is for headaches and migraines.
B1 is good for brain function and neurotransmitter.
B3 is for cholesterol support.
B12 is for cognitive decline.