Aging is an inevitable process, but its consequences can be slowed down or even prevented.
By the age of 70, one in 5 people will suffer from cognitive impairment, and in 5 years, it will progress to dementia and death. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease yet, but the risk factors can be effectively controlled.
One 1990 study which analyzed 22 Alzheimer’s patients found elevated of homocysteine in their blood. This study was done after the findings of another study conducted in 1969.
Namely, a Harvard pathologist reported two cases of children, whose brains had turned to mush, and both of them suffered from extremely rare genetic mutations abnormally increased homocysteine in their bodies.
Nowadays, homocysteine is believed to be “a strong, independent risk factor for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
According to the findings of the Framingham Study, one in six Alzheimer’s cases may be a result of too high homocysteine in the blood, and this causes brain damage and cognitive and memory decline.
To detoxify homocysteine, the body needs three vitamins, vitamin B12, B6, and folate.
Initially, studies gave no successful results. One double-blind randomized controlled trial showed that the reduction of homocysteine with the help of B vitamins can slow the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in patients with mild cognitive impairment.
The brain experiences atrophy over the years, but it is accelerated in Alzheimer’s patients, and its rate is intermediate in the case of mild cognitive impairment.
Therefore, if we could slow down this rate of brain loss, we could possibly prevent the worsening of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
People who received B vitamins for two years significantly slowed the rate of brain shrinkage, and it was cut in half in people with high homocysteine levels.
Research has shown that B-vitamin treatment reduces, by as much as seven-fold, the brain atrophy in the areas specifically prone to the Alzheimer’s disease process.
Most people get sufficient amounts of B12 and B6, but they lack folate, which is found concentrated in greens and beans. Thus, studies have shown that the consumption of a diet rich in plants, can reduce homocysteine levels by 20% in just one week.
Researchers believe this is mostly due to the high fiber content, as every gram of daily fiber consumption elevates folate levels in the blood by 2%, by reducing the intake of methionine and boosting vitamin production in the colon.
Methionine is actually a breakdown product of methionine, mostly found in animal protein, so its limited intake might regulate homocysteine levels.
On the other hand, people who follow plant-based diets long-term have terrible homocysteine levels. This is a result of the insufficient intake of vitamin B12, even though they get enough folate and fiber.
Vegans were at a high risk of hyperhomocysteinaemia (too much homocysteine in the blood) due to the low intake of vitamin B12-fortified foods. Yet, if they consume sufficient amounts of B12, they will enjoy all the benefits of plant-based diets and prevent brain loss.
Hence, it is of high importance to maintain the healthy balance of these three vitamins in order to prevent cognitive impairment and support the function of your brain.