Vitamin B x Macular Degneration x Alzheimers

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image-OculairEvidence continues to mount that links B vitamins deficiency, specifically B6, B12 and folate, to increased risk of developing Macular Degeneration and Alzheimer’s, as well as faster progression of the two disease processes.

PLoS One, the open-access journal for the communication of all peer-reviewed scientific and medical research, reported on the findings of the Vitamins in Cognitive Impairment Trail. (VITACOG).

This study suggests a 29.6 percent reduction in the rate of brain atrophy in 168 study participants, aged 70 and older, who supplemented with 20 mg of vitamin B6, 500 mcg of vitamin B12 and 800 mcg of folate per day for 24 months vs. the placebo group.

Here is where this study gets very interesting: Among the 168 study participants who received the B vitamin treatment, the 25 percent with the highest homocysteine levels at baseline experienced a 53 percent reduction in the rate of atrophy, compared to the placebo group.

Two obvious questions: 

1. Since reduction in the rate of atrophy was associated with improvement in B vitamin levels, is elevated homocysteine a direct cause of brain atrophy, or is brain atrophy the result of reduced levels of vitamins B6, B12 and folate?

2.  Does elevated homocysteine only serve as a marker for B vitamin deficiency?  B vitamin deficiencies are persistently associated with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.

  • Low B6 levels are associated with elevated numbers of lesions on the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • An Alzheimer’s study done in Sweden found that patients with low levels of B12 and folate had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over the 3 year study period
  •  A study of 126 patients, including 30 who had Alzheimer’s disease, found that the levels of folate in cerebrospinal fluid were significantly lower in patients with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

B Vitamins & Macular Degeneration

A large double-masked study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that a combination of vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folic acid may protect women against age-related macular degeneration.

Women taking this trio of vitamins in amounts well beyond the recommended daily doses were one-third less likely to develop macular degeneration than were people taking placebos.

Epidemiologists at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analyzed data collected as part of a large trial originally designed to test the effects of other vitamins on women with heart problems. In 1998, researchers selected 5,205 women in the trial who didn’t have macular degeneration and were willing to take part in a test of B-6, B-12 and folic acid. Half of the women were randomly assigned to get these supplements; the others received placebo pills.

Interestingly, most of the women in the study were overweight, which is also suggested in over 20 studies to increase the risk of developing macular degeneration.

The average age of the study participants was 63. The women in both groups provided information about their vision by responding to annual questionnaires in the mail. All were permitted to take multivitamins with B-6, B-12 and folate up to, but not exceeding, recommended daily allowances (RDAs).

Whenever a participant reported that she’d been diagnosed with macular degeneration, scientists contacted the woman’s eye doctor and elicited a report.

After 7.3 years of follow-up, those reports had turned up 82 cases of age-related macular degeneration among women taking placebos and only 55 cases in the women receiving the high- potency B vitamin supplements.

Ellen Troyer, MT MA, with Spencer Thornton, MD and the Biosyntrx Staff

PEARL: The third obvious question that must be ask:  Given the large amount of science that supports daily supplementation with B vitamins, why would any responsible company or doctor recommend nutritional formulas for eye, brain or full body health that do not include the entire family of B vitamins?  B vitamins are completely water soluble. What your body doesn’t use is safely eliminated through the kidneys.

References: A large number of B-vitamin studies can be found in the references for this column, as well as a surgical instrument announcement from our friends at Crestpoint Management.

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