Authored by: Dr. Maroon
Researchers from the Aging Research Center in Stockholm, Sweden reported on a 7-year study investigating Alzheimer’s disease and diet. Published in the Journal Neurology, the authors found that those with a higher level of vitamin B12 in their blood were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. In this study, those with higher levels of the inflammatory marker, homocysteine, had a significantly greater risk of developing the disease.
Subsequently, a number of other studies have suggested that high homocysteine levels correlate with an evelevated risk to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, blood vessel clotting, and peripheral atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the artery walls leading to blockage).
How do B vitamins impact homocysteine? Folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 help to convert homocysteine into methionine, one of the 20 or so building blocks from which the body builds new proteins. When your body lacks folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, this conversion process becomes inefficient and homocysteine levels increase. Elevated homocysteine is associated with inflammation in the body. In turn, increasing intake of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 helps to maintain normal homocysteine levels.
It’s incredible how so many vitamins and minerals work together to complete bodily processes. Moreover, understanding how vitamins directly impact your past, present, and future health could make the difference between poor and high quality health through the aging years. Check the breakdown below for specific callouts to the unique role of vitamins B6, B12 and folate.
B6 is essential for nervous system function and may play a role in the maintenance of normal homocysteine levels. It is required for proper hemoglobin synthesis and plays a varied role in amino acid metabolism. A high protein diet may increase the body's need for vitamin B-6.
Food sources include: fortified breakfast cereals and grains, liver, bananas, and avocados.
B12 is essential for energy production and red blood cells. It primarily comes from animal sources, so a strict vegetarian who avoids all animal products (vegan) may need to get B12 through a supplement. It is essential for nerve tissue formation, metabolism of carbohydrates, proper red blood cell formation, and required for proper neurological function.
Food sources are: liver and other meats, poultry, seafood, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified grains and cereals.
Folate is a B vitamin found naturally in foods; think leafy green veggies, fruits, dried beans and peas. The synthetic form of folate is folic acid, found in fortified foods and supplements. What you may not know is that folic acid in supplements is more bioavailable than food folate. As the Office of Dietary Supplements states, “Folate helps produce and maintain new cells.” Folate is required for the transformation of homocysteine to form methionine (along with vitamin B12); it is also required for proper red blood cell formation.
Food sources include: fortified breakfast cereals, beef liver, lentils, spinach, beans, asparagus, and more. The ODS provides a list of more food sources of folate and folic acid.
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