Preventing Brain Loss with B Vitamins?

Preventing Brain Loss with B Vitamins?

“Preventing Brain Loss with B Vitamins?” By our 70s, one in five of us will
suffer from cognitive impairment, and within 5 years half
will progress to dementia, in a progression from cognitive
impairment without dementia, to dementia and death. The earlier we can slow or
stop this process, the better. Although an effective treatment
for Alzheimer’s disease is unavailable, even interventions just to control risk
factors could prevent millions of cases. So an immense effort has
been spent on identifying risk factors for Alzheimer’s and
developing treatments to reduce them. In 1990, a small study of 22
Alzheimer’s patients reported that they had high concentrations
of something called homocysteine in their blood. The homocysteine story
starts back to 1969 when a Harvard pathologist
reported two cases of children, one dating back to 1933, whose
brains had turned to mush. They both suffered from extremely
rare genetic mutations that led to abnormally high levels
of homocysteine in their bodies. So is it possible, he asked, that
homocysteine could cause brain damage even in people without
genetic defects? Well, now here we are in the 21st century
and homocysteine is considered a strong, independent risk
factor for the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Having a blood level over 14
may nearly double our risk. In the Framingham Study
they estimated that as many as 1 in 6 Alzheimer’s
cases may be attributable to this elevated homocysteine
in the blood, now thought to play a role in brain
damage, cognitive and memory decline. Our body can detoxify
homocysteine, though, using three vitamins: folate,
vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. So why don’t we put them to the test? No matter how many
studies find an association between high homocysteine, cognitive
decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a causal role, a cause and effect role can only be confirmed by
interventional studies. Now initially, the results
were disappointing; vitamin supplementation
did not seem to work. But the studies were tracking
neuropsychological assessments, which are more subjective,
compared to structural neuroimaging – actually seeing what’s
happening to the brain. And a double-blind randomized
controlled trial found that homocysteine-lowering by B vitamins can
slow the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in people with mild cognitive impairment. As we age, our brain slowly atrophies,
but the shrinking is much accelerated in patients suffering
from Alzheimer’s disease. Kind of an intermittent rate
of shrinkage is found in people with mild
cognitive impairment. So the thinking is maybe if we could
slow down the rate of brain loss, we could slow down this conversion
to Alzheimer’s disease. So they tried giving people
B vitamins for two years and they found it markedly slowed
the rate of brain shrinkage. The rate of atrophy in those with high
homocysteine levels was cut in half. A simple, safe treatment can slow
the accelerated rate of brain loss. A follow-up study went
further by demonstrating that B-vitamin treatment reduces, by as
much as seven fold, the brain atrophy in the regions specifically vulnerable
to the Alzheimer’s disease process. Here’s the amount of brain atrophy
over two years in the placebo group; here’s the amount of loss
in the B vitamin group. Less brain loss. Now the beneficial
effect of B vitamins was confined to those
with high homocysteine indicating a relative deficiency
in one of those three vitamins. So wouldn’t it be better to not
get deficient in the first place? Most people get
enough B12 and B6, but the reason these folks were
stuck up at a homocysteine of 11 is that they probably weren’t
getting enough folate, which is found predominantly
in beans and greens. 96% of Americans don’t even make the
minimum recommended amount of dark green leafy vegetables — the same pitiful number that don’t eat
the minimum recommendation for beans. In fact, if you put people on
a healthy diet, on a plant-based diet, you can drop their homocysteine
levels 20% in just one week, up from around 11 down to 9. The fact that they showed significant
homocysteine lowering without any pills, without supplements even at one week suggests that multiple mechanisms
may have been at work. They suggest it may be
because of the fiber. Every gram of daily fiber consumption
may increase folate levels in the blood nearly 2%, perhaps by
boosting vitamin production in our colon by our
friendly gut bacteria. It also could be from the
decreased methionine intake. That’s where homocysteine comes from. Homocysteine is a breakdown
product of methionine, which comes mostly
from animal protein. And so if you give someone
bacon and eggs for breakfast, then a steak for dinner,
you can get these spikes of homocysteine levels in the blood. Thus, decreased methionine
intake on a plant-based diet may be another factor contributing to
these lower, safer homocysteine levels. The irony, of course, is that those who
eat plant-based diets long-term, not just at a health spa for a week,
have terrible homocysteine levels. Meateaters up at 11, but vegetarians
at nearly 14, vegans at 16. Why? They’re getting more fiber and folate, but
they’re not getting enough vitamin B12. Most vegans can be classified
as being likely to suffer from hyperhomocysteinaemia,
too much homocysteine in the blood because most vegans
in this study were not supplementing with vitamin B12,
or eating vitamin B12 fortified foods, which is critical for anyone
eating a plant-based diet. But if you take vegans
and give them B12, their homocysteine
can drop down below 5. Why not down to just 11? The reason the meat eaters
were stuck up at 11 is probably because they
weren’t getting enough folate. But once vegans got enough B12 they could finally fully exploit the
benefits of their plant-based diets and come out with the
best levels of all.



  • TheStewieGriffinShow

    Coffee drinkers can have significantly higher levels of homocysteine. People who have higher levels of homocysteine also have an increased risk of heart problems.

  • TheStewieGriffinShow

    I wonder if anyone here is aware of all the toxic substances that are used in the making of vitamins and particularly B vitamins and/or what the formulas are? I will give you a little hint. It is NOT good. It always helps to know what you are putting in your body and especially if it's on a daily basis.

  • Dwight E Howell

    Went to the local Kroger store Thursday night 7/17/2015. They didn't even have a can of peas on the shelves. Legumes are good and good for you but they are taking up less and less shelf space.

  • Daisy Cypress Tulipgarden

    Methylcobalamin, B12 is probably the most nutritious form of B12.

  • Rotini Fleishoffer

    Veganism causes brain loss.

  • Justin M

    Wow. I'm becoming Vegan one video at a time. Great video!

  • J Hancock

    Dr. Greger, thanks for your videos, they are insightful and important for us concerned and curious about health. I've been a vegetarian for 22 years and recently turned vegan. In accordance with this video vitamin B12 was mentioned as an important supplement in preventing this harmful disease. However, it made me curious as to how often a vegan should take this vitamin (daily, once a week, etc) to receive it's minimal (or maximum) benefit. If you have any suggested literature or advice in relation to this that would be most helpful. Thank you.

  • Scotbot

    Interesting video.

    Did you also know that Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) reduces Homocysteine levels?

  • pbunyon100

    great video

  • johnny102marvin

    The more I listen to this channel the more raw vegetables I eat and the less meat I eat. I am down to eating just a few bites of meat every other day. But, I will start taking a B complex vitamin after listening to this video + sublingual vitamin B12 spray sold by NOW vitamin company.

  • Matt Bryan

    Wonderful video! Also if a person has genetic methylation issues they may need 5-MTHF (activated B9) to help reduce homocysteine.

  • Cookie Cutter

    Anyone here got opinions on the best sources for B vitamins in general? They don't really seem to be present in a lot of the foods I eat :s

  • D Master

    redo this video and stick to the facts. cut out cut out of them maybe this maybe that. if vegans have high homocysteine levels that means they had high methionine levels so this crap about just getting the methionine from animal products is just rubbish

  • John Paradise

    "…and come out with the best levels of all!"


    The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center
    B vitamins are among the most popular supplements on the market in the United States. Some, like B6 and B12, are marketed and sold as products that can boost your energy. But a new study shows that using too much vitamin B6 and B12 dramatically increases lung cancer in men, particularly those who smoke.
    PS. If you are vegan as i am … take care…

  • yup

    B12 comes With meat.. It's not From meat. It's from bacteria that lives in meat.. and pond water, dirt, etc. All vegans have to do is take a supplement to boost their chances against Alzheimers far beyond what meat eaters can get to.

  • Joe Curran

    Great video.

  • TheAltruismActivist

    Beans, greens, and B12!

  • 58gennaro

    had a young lady respond to a post on a fb page that she is vegan for the animals health, not hers. i wonder if the stereotype of the unhealthy vegan is their own fault. zeal without knowledge. no thought to supplement what they may be missing. also goes for the keto group. i see many complaining about hair loss on keto. bottom line… do your research.

  • swaggastronomer


  • Tom Cool

    Alcohol abuse shrinks the brain as well.

  • Jefferdaughter

    Viewers may want to check out a couple more videos on vegetables and other plant-source foods:
    Dr. Georgia Ede, MD

    Sally Norton 'The Loss of Seasonality…'

    George Diggs, PhD 'Plant.. Toxins in an Evolutionary Context'

    It all gets so confusing… When caring for animals, we try to provide a habitat and diet as close to what is natural for them in the wild as we can. But what did humans eat, before they began living such artificial lives? Dr. Barry Groves 'What We Are Designed to Eat' provides some clues:

    BTW, meat is an excellent source of the B vitamins, and vegetarians and vegans are often deficient. Is this a clue?

  • Debi tucker

    Hi , I was just wondering if you can get too much B12? I was taking a B Complex and an additional B12 and my levels were around 1300, so my Naturopath told me to stop taking the B12. I am over 60 and vegetarian so I was wondering if it is really a good idea to discontinue the B12, since age can be a factor in absorption.

  • Jakob W

    Which FOODS have B12?

  • MrSmallANDLoud

    So, Joe Biden needs B vitamins.

  • Marco Meerman

    Thanks for warning vegans to supplement B12.

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