A Newswise article titled, “B-Vitamin Deficiency May Cause Vascular Cognitive Impairment,” caught my eye, as I’m always looking for ways that we can help prevent dementia and other health problems through nutritional or other safe and readily available means. This particular article is about a Tufts University study that “…used an experimental model to examine the metabolic, cognitive, and microvascular effects of dietary B-vitamin deficiency.”
In a nutshell, the study found, “Mice fed a diet deficient in folate and vitamins B12 and B6 demonstrated significant deficits in spatial learning and memory compared with normal mice.”
Vitamin B12 has been extensively studied, and a deficiency of the vitamin in elders has been shown to cause brain related disease, as well as other problems. Older people often don’t absorb B12 well, and shots to bypass the digestive tract have been around for decades. I remember my grandmother getting them, back in the good old days when a public health nurse would come to the house for such a service. I believe she got them for a specific type of anemia.
I’ve written a couple of posts for OurAlzheimer’s about studies showing B12 to be the culprit behind many cognitive ailments. In “Could It Be Dementia?" A Caregiving Book Packed With Compassion and Information,” I reviewed a book with information on this topic. Also, “Vitamin B12, Prevagen, and Other Natural Approaches to Alzheimer’s Prevention” covers nutritional studies showing that certain nutrients appear to help defend our brains from some cognitive diseases. As with all studies, these have their detractors.
This new Tufts University study is the first one that I’ve read focusing on a broader range of B vitamins. You may want to click on the link and read the Newswise article on the study. It will give you the nitty-gritty about what researchers have found when mice are deficient in these vitamins, including the mice’s ability to do their appropriate maze work. We can hope that the confused mice will lead researchers forward and inspire them to do more studies on ways that we can help ourselves with substances available to us now.
Drug companies are working at a fast and furious pace to come up with a magic bullet to help dementia patients, and there are some drugs currently on the market that help many put off, for a time, the more devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. But drugs need to be studied for years and go through many safety trials before they can be used on humans. Even the best drug has side effects that must be carefully watched. We are all rooting these scientists on, as we want to see progress in this area soon.
But meanwhile, we are all living our lives, and most of us want to live the best quality of life possible. So the studies that show us that more exercise and a better diet and/or supplements can improve our lives are very important. These are things we can do now to reduce our chances of getting vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s or any one of the numerous other dementias, or to improve our health if we already have been diagnosed.
There are no guarantees. But I’m willing to keep a keen eye on my B vitamin intake. They are important for many bodily functions, but to me, preventing dementia or helping a person with dementia lead a more satisfying life, heads the list of things they can do for us. This study offers some good news.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.