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FROM THE VAULT: Hope in combating Alzheimer's (2011)

FROM THE VAULT: Hope in combating Alzheimer's (2011)

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2011 edition of Healthy Life Magazine.

A Dose of Hope for Combating Alzheimer's

By Christopher Coyne

Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, is the most complex vitamin known to man. We're all born with an adequate supply of B12, but the amount stored in our systems can decrease over the years. If we don't sufficiently replenish Vitamin B12 it can result in many health problems, and a long-term deficiency can cause damage to our brains.

It would appear that this is the case with many sufferers of Alzheimer's disease; and multiple studies conducted over the past several years show that increasing B12 in older adults diminishes their chance of being at risk for Alzheimer's . The research is still in its early stages, and it is by no means a proven cure for the disease, but the evidence is encouraging, and the studies continue to find positive results for patients receiving B12 supplements.

An amino acid called homocysteine has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, memory loss and stroke. Researchers have already found that high levels of vitamin B12 in the blood help reduce the levels of homocysteine--and that was the impetus for at least one Alzheimer's study. A study in Finland found that an increase in B12 levels for non-Alzheimer's test patients resulted in a lower risk of getting the disease, while an increase of homocysteine levels increased their risk considerably.

There is certainly not a universal consensus within the medical community that increasing B12 is the definitive answer to combating Alzheimer's, but there are doctors all around the world championing the cause. A physician in Arizona hypothesizes that most cases of Alzheimer's dementia are actually missed cases of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Whether or not long-term vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the true root causes of Alzheimer's disease; there is little harm in supplementing our B12 supply. Our body will use what it needs, store reserve B12 and discard any excess it doesn't need. We can get B12 naturally from food such as clams, oysters. liver, fish, beef, lamb and even cheese--or we may choose to use B12 injections or over-the-counter supplements.

Talk to your physician first before deciding on the method that's best for you. It seems almost too simple that something as minor--and treatable--as a vitamin deficiency could be a cause of a tragic disease that has affected so many lives, but any dose of hope in the fight against Alzheimer's should be celebrated.