Healthy Aging- B Vitamins and Alzheimer’s?

PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease
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What are B-Vitamins and why are they a family?

B-Vitamins make an untidy family. They aren’t even much of a family since they have different functions in the body. They are similar only because they are all water soluble and  found in the same foods but beyond that their isn’t much family resemblance.

There are 8 members of the B vitamin family. Being water soluble, excess amounts of any B vitamin will be excreted in the urine. There is therefore little risk of consuming too much of these vitamins. They can be stored in limited amounts in the liver.

They are:

B1 Thiamine

B2 Roboflavin

B3 Niacin

B5 Pantothenic Acid

B6 Pyridoxine

B12 Cyanocobalamin

Folic Acid

Biotin

The odd numbering is explained by the discovery that some substances thought to be B vitamins later turned out not to be vitamins. (Some were manufactured in the body disqualifying them. Others were not organic or necessary to humans.) The result is this untidy grouping of B vitamins, some of which don’t even rate a number.

What do they do?

Together the B-Vitamins are essential for:

  • Breaking down carbohydrates into glucose (energy production)
  • Breaking down fats and proteins Muscle tone in stomach and intestines
  • Skin
  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Mouth
  • Liver.

What dosage do you need?

In general, people seem to get an adequate supply of B vitamins in the diet. Many others receive them in multi-vitamins or fortified foods. Recent studies suggest that B3 or Niacin may be important in treating Alzheimer’s. While it may not be necessary to supplement for other members of the B vitamin family, B3 may be different, particularly for older individuals.

Why is B3 or Niacin different?

First, Vitamin B3 is a water soluble vitamin that is used in the body to form the co enzymes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). These coenzymes are necessary for  the energy production of 200 or so enzymes which require niacin co enzymes (NAD and NADP) to accept or donate electrons for redox reations.  In addition, NAD is also involved in non redox reactions which seem to be involved in cell signaling but these reactions are less well understood.

Does B3 is prevent any diseases?

Perhaps. Studies of cultured cells show that NAD content influences the cellular response to DNA damage which is a risk factor in cancer development. Other studies have linked NAD levels to leukemia and skin cancers but none of these studies were done on humans. Recent studies on humans have shown that consumption of niacin along with anti-oxidant nutrients reduced cancers in the mouth, throat and esophagus.

Does B3  treat disease?

Perhaps, again. Recently, researchers at the University of California, Irvine have found that huge doses of B3 effectively relieved all symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in affected mice. While no human studies are completed, there is good reason to use B3 to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s. The first is that the symptoms associated with B3 deficiency are quite similar to those of Alzheimer’s The second is that there are no negative affects from large doses of B3.

What is the RDA?

The RDA for B3 is 16 mg per day for males over 19 and 14 mg per day for females.

What is the suggested dosage for treating Alzheimer’s?

The dosage equivalent for humans to that used in the mouse study is 1,000 mg, three times a day. This is very much higher than the RDA but these doses have proved to be safe for most individuals (a very few individuals report nausea and need to reduce dosage but most have no problems with that dosage.)

While you may not need to worry about other members of the B Vitamin family, niacin or B3 may be important in preventing or reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Bob @ JuicyMaters.com October 12, 2010, 8:43 am

    Ralph, there is a caveat to the statement “In general, people seem to get an adequate supply of B vitamins in the diet.”

    That is true, if…

    Your diet consists of fresh, unprocessed foods…which is not the description of most people’s food choices. When you walk in a supermarket you have usually left your chances of getting real nutrition in the parking lot. All foods sold with the USDA and FDA approvals have been processed to one degree or another, and sometimes you are no better off choosing fresh veggies and meat instead of the canned crap.

    Meats are chemical swamps laden with growth hormones and maintenance doses of anti-biotics and veggies are grown using their own stew of chemicals.

    Supplementing your diet with vitamin pills from the health food stores gives little relief. While a naturally occurring vitamin and a factory produced one are both vitamins, there is a large difference in the body’s uptake of naturally occurring vs chemically created vitamins.

    Just because you put it in your mouth doesn’t mean it gets in your system.

    Want a healthy diet? Find a locaql CSA or a farm that grows it’s meat and vegetables in a natural, healthy manner. The food tastes better and is better for you.

  • Ralph October 12, 2010, 8:49 am

    Bob,
    You won’t get an argument from me. Natural is best but it is hard to do for many people these days. And if you want the big doses for Alzheimer’s, I don’t know if you can eat enough vegetables.

  • Bob @ JuicyMaters.com October 12, 2010, 9:46 am

    Actually I don’t worry much about Ahlzimers…I’ve had CRS for so long and so bad that if and when it morphs into Ahlzimers nobody will notice.

    CRS? You haven’t heard of it? Can’t Remember Shit syndrome…LOL

  • Ralph October 12, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Bob,
    What is nice about Alzheimer’s is that once you have it you don’t worry about it any more.

  • Bob @ JuicyMaters.com October 12, 2010, 4:47 pm

    I’ve actually had people get mad at me because I don’t “feel sorry” for Alzhimer’s patients…for just the reason you say…they don’t care. I have a lot of sympathy for the family members who have to watch the deterioration.

    It’s kinda like death. Don’t cry for the dead…hopefully they are in a better place. Cry for those who are left. They have to put up with jackasses like me.

  • Mike Ramsey October 14, 2010, 7:13 am

    I’m thankful that you’ve shared this information. It’s been 3 years now when doctors discovered that my grandmother (dad’s mom) has an Alzhiemer’s. We found it very difficult to accept that fact, but what else can we do. It runs in their family. Many people think that it’s just a deterioration of mind, but it isn’t as easy as that. Deterioration of mind plus acting like a mental patient who will throw things anywhere, do stupid things, act like a kid, etc. Best explanation is a sort of tantrums. As far as I know, the only medication the doctors can recommend is something that can help a person with Alzhiemer’s control his/her activity. Other than that, it has no cure at all.
    Mike Ramsey’s last Blog Post ..Tips On How To Stop Excessive Sweating

    • Ralph October 14, 2010, 7:58 am

      Mike,
      My father had Alzheimer’s as did one of his cousins. I don’t know about the hereditary nature of it but I am hoping that nutrition can prevent it. The study suggested that niacin relieved the symptoms in mice. That is encouraging.

  • Mike Ramsey October 28, 2010, 11:40 pm

    Ralph,

    Sad to say that my grandmother had tantrums the other day. My dad don’t have any other choice but to look for her since my brother can’t no longer handle her. I don’t know about the nutrition required for her but I hope so that will help her at least have a little improvement. I will research more about the Niacin. Thanks!
    Mike Ramsey’s last Blog Post ..Tips On How To Stop Excessive Sweating

    • Ralph October 29, 2010, 7:35 am

      I hope you can find something that helps. When I was researching apples, I learned that some researchers find that apple juice can reduce some of the symptoms as well. Good luck. I know how devastating it is watching someone you love lose their humanity.

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