There probably is a link between dementia and high blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. The B vitamins help metabolize and lower homocysteine levels. There probably is a link between low B levels with high homocysteine and higher dementia risk.
The evidence came from the University of Oxford where researchers divided more than 270 elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) into two groups. For two years, one group took placebos while the other group took daily supplements of folic acid (0.8 mg), vitamin B-12 (0.5 mg), and vitamin B-6 (20 mg). Nearly 170 subjects agreed to have cranial MRI scans at the beginning and end of the study. This allowed the Oxford team to track brain atrophy. As they note in their study, accelerated brain atrophy is common in patients with MCI who later develop Alzheimer’s. Results: Brain atrophy progression was significantly slower in the B supplement group. Subjects with a greater rate of atrophy also had lower cognitive test scores than supplement subjects.
Taking additional B vitamins will help you keep your cognitive health intact. But taking extra B supplements is just a start. Other research shows that daily exercise combined with several key supplements will help prevent brain atrophy and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
High blood levels of homocysteine can increase the risk of hearing loss, and low folate levels sharply increase that risk even more.
Elevated homocysteine can obstruct blood flow to the cochlea–the section of the inner ear that converts vibrations to electrical signals. Homocysteine is best known for creating heart problems. Most importantly, an elevated homocysteine level is an independent risk factor for heart disease. High levels of this amino acid are also linked with Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and vision problems.
So could a couple of B vitamins help?
Well, we know that high levels of vitamin B12 and folate (also known as B9) are associated with low homocysteine levels.
Homocysteine levels tend to rise as we age. So…if folate is low, homocysteine high, and hearing is impaired, can some folic acid (synthetic folate) help?
One study says yes. But don’t expect miracles.
Researchers in the Netherlands gave 800 micrograms of folic acid or a placebo to nearly 730 subjects over the age of 50 with high homocysteine levels. After three years, average rate of decline in hearing low frequencies was significantly less in the folic acid group compared to placebo. But both groups had similar decline in hearing higher frequencies.
But folic acid isn’t your only option.
Vinpocetine is an herbal extract that improves circulation. Ideally, it might help alleviate reduced blood flow to the cochlea–especially when your meal plan contains dietary sources of folate, such as beans, chickpeas, asparagus, spinach, and other leafy green vegetables.