Have You Heard of The Shrinkage Factor?
Don’t take this the wrong way, but is your brain shrinking?
Maybe a better question might be “are you ready for your brain to start shrinking” because in the elderly, the brain shows progressive atrophy. The atrophy occurs even in healthy cognitive adults.
The greater the levels of cognitive decline however, the greater the atrophy as seen on MRIs. In a study, researchers found an interesting variable, plasma level of homocysteine. Raised homocysteine is associated with both regional and whole brain atrophy, not only in Alzheimer’s disease but also in healthy adults.
168 participants 70 years and older were placed in 2 groups. The treatment group had 85 participants supplemented with the homocysteine lowering B vitamins: folic acid, B12 and B6. 83 remaining participants in the control group received a placebo. Both groups were given MRIs before and after the two year study.
The mean rate of brain atrophy after 2 years was 1.08 % for the control group and .76% for the treatment group. Ouch, I don’t like the thought of my brain atrophying even .76% in a 2 year period.
The treatment response was related to baseline homocysteine levels. In the treatment group if levels were greater than 13, the results were more dramatic. The rate of atrophy was 53% lower. The greatest rate of atrophy was associated with a lower final cognitive test score.
In other words the more your brain atrophies, the lower your ability to think, to remember and problem solve.
In the past, elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood have been associated with atherosclerosis, an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation and Alzheimer’s disease.
Elevated levels of homocysteine have also been linked to increased fractures in elderly persons. It appears that reducing homocysteine levels does not affect bone density. In a trial, subjects with prior stroke and elevated homocysteine levels were given folate and B12. There was an 80% reduction in fractures, mainly hip, after 2 years.
Interestingly, bone density (and the number of falls) was identical in the vitamin and the placebo groups. So homocysteine is a marker.
No clear data indicates that reducing homocysteine will reverse these conditions. But the results of this study show by using these low dose B vitamins you can slow down brain atrophy especially in the cases where elevated homocysteine is present.
Let’s consider several key points of the study. First, the study took place over 2 years. Nutrients are needed on an ongoing basis to reduce the factors that cause the brain to be inflamed. Next; when plasma levels of homocysteine were greater than 13, treatment results were more dramatic.
Elevated homocysteine is a marker for a malfunctioning metabolism that is depleted of folic acid, B12, B6 and perhaps methyl donors like betaine.
Remember we need B12 and folic acid for our genes to work properly. I think of homocysteine as the canary that dies in the coal mine, warning the miners that gases are present. Why should we wait till it hits 13 before we start supplementing?
Testing should be done on a regular basis to monitor progress and patient compliance.
Considering the many benefits of folate, B12 and B6, higher doses and optimized forms can be utilized safely. Let me mention that elevated levels of homocysteine are not only produced from inflammation, but the oxidative stress generated from elevated homocysteine levels will again promote inflammation.
As it relates to brain atrophy, wouldn’t it make sense to try to keep inflammation at a minimum?” The only way to know if you need this or any supplementation is to get tested by a doctor that understands what we just talked about. No matter how old or young you are, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.