October 25, 2013

B Vitamins: Brain and Eye Health

Posted in: Health and Nutrition, Latest News

by Ellen Troyer, MT MA, with Spencer Thornton, MD

Evidence 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).(1)

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.

An earlier 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.(2)

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.(3) 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.

Given the vast amount of published science that supports supplementation with the B vitamins, why would any responsible company or doctor design or recommend nutritional formulas that do not include the full spectrum of B vitamins? They are inexpensive and completely water soluble. What the body doesn’t need is safely eliminated through the kidneys.

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References:

1. Smith AD, Smith SM, de Jager CA, Whitbread P, Johnston C, et al. (2010) Homocysteine-Lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12244. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012244

2. Lottanzio R et al. Retina. 2006 Jan;26(1): 65-70.

3. Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23 ;169(4):335-41. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2008.574.

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