Approximately 18 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease and this estimate is projected to grow to 34 million people, with the highest increase expected among developing countries.  In the United States, approximately 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s with 200,000 of those under the age of 65.   It is the most common form of dementia among older adults and involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language and can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

The majority of cases of Alzheimer’s disease are sporadic, meaning that they are not genetically inherited although some genes may act as risk factors.  Around 0.1% of the cases are familial forms of autosomal dominant inheritance, which usually have an onset before age 65.  This form of the disease is known as early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease.  The direct cause is unknown and scientists theorize that it’s caused by multiple factors.   Cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, diabetes, and smoking, are associated with a higher risk of onset and course of AD. 

Even with extensive ongoing studies, there is still no known cure for and effective treatment to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  This fact alone makes prevention of this debilitating disease that much more important. 

A recent study conducted by the University of Oxford brings hope to many affected with this disease.  Homocysteine, an amino acid, that has been linked to cognitive impairment and the brain shrinkage associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s.   The Oxford study found that high doses of folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12 helped lower the blood levels of homocysteine and further reduced the associated brain shrinkage by up to 90 percent in the areas of the brain most affected in Alzheimer’s patients.  While these results will need to be confirmed with a larger trial, it is good news for the aging population.

The B vitamin group boasts an ample amount of healthful benefits and is already known to help us with maintaining healthy digestion, skin, nerves, muscle function, making healthy cells, red blood cell formation and aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and amino acids.  While these are just a few of the long list of benefits from this vitamin group, Alzheimer’s prevention may soon be added to that list.

The best prevention against any disease is a healthy lifestyle of physical activity and a healthy diet but it is excellent to know that getting the right amount of B vitamins through diet and supplementations may prevent a terrible disease such as Alzheimer’s while giving us so many other benefits.