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4 Vitamins That Strengthen Older Brains
New Tork Times ~ January 2, 2012
Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E are associated with better mental functioning in the elderly, a new study has found.
An Interview with Kilmer McCully, M.D.
Thirty years ago, Kilmer McCully, M.D., discovered that cholesterol and clogged arteries are not the causes but rather the symptoms of heart disease. McCully's pioneering 1969 theory that linked homocysteine— an amino acid that accumulates in the blood— and heart disease was not embraced by the medical community. In fact, he was banished from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital and denied a new position for more than two years because of his research. Times have changed for McCully. The cum laude graduate of Harvard Medical School has received numerous awards for his research including the 1998 Linus Pauling Functional Medicine Award.
Supplementing Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarian diets have blossomed and proliferated far beyond their countercultural roots in the early 1970s. Scientific evidence now makes clear that eliminating meat from the diet can indeed be a healthy choice. In fact, switching to a high intake of plant foods will provide the body with substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and low amounts of saturated fatfactors that have been associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  During the last 30 years, interest in such plant-based diets has shifted from assessing their adequacy to determining their specific health benefits.  And although scientists agree that there are a number of advantages, many also feel that, under certain circumstances, vegetarians may not be getting enough of a handful of nutrients.
3 B's Block Cardiovascular Disease
Stress, smoking and high cholesterol are the three most commonly recognized risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). This group of diseases includes hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), cholesterol and lipid deposits in arterial linings (atherosclerosis), narrowing of the arteries that cuts blood flow to the myocardium in the heart (coronary artery disease), high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attack (myocardial infarction), and stroke, among others. Enter a 30-year-old theory, developed by then-Harvard University researcher Kilmer S. McCully, M.D. In 1969, McCully presented his theory that hardening of the arteries was directly related to the amino acid homocysteine. He found that children with certain rare genetic diseases caused by the absence of critical enzymes led to defects in the body's ability to metabolize the amino acids methionine and homocysteine. This processing defect in turn led to high blood levels of homocysteine and an extremely high risk of premature cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidant Vitamins Block Homocysteine's Acute Toxic Effects
About one-fourth of all American adults have excessively high blood levels of homocysteine. This amino acid is formed from methionine, which is taken into the body via animal-derived foods. High levels of homocysteine translate into a significant increase in hardening of the arteries known as arteriosclerosis. In that way, homocysteine is similar to cholesterol because prolonged, elevated levels of it gradually damage the inner linings of blood vessels, causing atherosclerotic plaque and narrowing of the arteries. However, for a catastrophic end result of this process to occur — a heart attack or a stroke — it typically takes more than just narrow arteries: It requires the blood within the artery to congeal into a clot, suddenly causing an obstruction.
Niacin Helps Hearts
Niacin (nicotinic acid), a B vitamin, is one of the oldest drugs used to treat high blood-cholesterol levels. Unlike its nonflushing counterpart, niacinamide, niacin displays potent LDL cholesterol- and triglyceride-lowering effects and HDL cholesterol-elevating effects. Niacin has also been shown to help reverse hardening of the arteries and to decrease the incidence of heart disease and its associated deaths, qualities that distinguish it from other dietary supplements. [1-4]
Stress: The Hidden Factor For Weight Gain?
Hormones and other physiological agents that mediate the stress response have short-term protective and adaptive effects and yet can accelerate pathophysiology when they are over-produced. One such downstream biological effect of chronic stress is weight gain. A number of nutrients and herbs have been identified that regulate and enhance the body's ability to handle stress and its manifestations.
Low Childhood B12 May Affect Later Years
A cognitive test shows lack of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) during the formative first six years of life could result in long-term reduced cognitive function. Researchers from the Nutrition and Food Research Institute in Zeist, Netherlands, studied children who had been raised on a strictly vegan macrobiotic diet until age six. The children ate a lactovegetarian or omnivorous diet after that age.
Pharmaceutical Drugs Deplete Folic Acid
In a New England Journal of Medicine study, researchers at Boston University School of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health raised concern over the use of drugs that interfere with folate metabolism during pregnancy, suggesting that such drug use may increase the risk of birth defects.  They asked the mothers of more than 15,000 infants with birth defects whether they had taken certain drugs, known by researchers to inhibit folate activity, during their pregnancies.
B Vitamins Cut Cancer Risks
Smokers can reduce their risk of lung and pancreatic cancer by getting sufficient B vitamins, according to two separate reports from the European Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study, which looked at nutritional intake of 27,000 Finnish male smokers aged 50 to 70.
B Vitamins Helps PMS
Katrina Wyatt, M.D., and colleagues at North Staffordshire Hospital in Stoke on Trent, U.K., statistically analyzed nine studies examining the effect of vitamin B6 supplements on PMS. Another 16 published studies on the subject were deemed of low quality and were not included in the analysis. Wyatt concludes vitamin B6 supplementation appears to relieve PMS symptoms including depression, breast tenderness and bloating more effectively than placebo. She refrained, however, from giving B6 her seal of approval because most of the trials did not include enough women. Instead, she called for a large-scale clinical study to establish definitive recommendations for treating PMS with vitamin B6.
B1 Lack May Spur Anorexia Nervosa
Thirty-eight percent of the patients with anorexia were deficient in vitamin B1, 19 percent severely so, while no one among the healthy subjects was deficient. Low vitamin B1 levels were not related to fasting, vomiting, or drinking alcohol, which suggests that some anorexics have a larger metabolic requirement for vitamin B1.
Sidestep Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease affects millions and one reason why is high blood pressure--a condition so common in the adult population that one in five Americans have it.1 Two other conditions, atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty deposits on the insides of artery walls, and arteriosclerosis, a loss of elasticity and integrity of artery walls, are common diseases that contribute to hypertension and degeneration of the heart muscle. High blood pressure may develop as the fatty deposits and loss of elasticity narrow blood vessels and raise pressure. The high pressure further damages the blood vessels, creating a vicious cycle.
Americans May Be Low in B12
After testing 3,000 men and women (ages 26 to 83) living in Framingham, Mass., researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, located here, discovered that 39 percent were suffering from "low normal" levels of vitamin B12—below 258 pmol/L. Although these values are well above the currently accepted deficiency level of 148 pmol/L, it has been shown that even at this low normal level, people often exhibit deficiency symptoms, such as balance disturbances or confusion.
Homocysteine-lowering by B Vitamins Slows the Rate of Accelerated Brain
Atrophy in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial
PLoS One. 2010 (Sep 8); 5 (9): e12244
The Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA) investigated the effect of B-vitamin supplementation on various parameters of brain aging and associated cognitive function. The treatment group was given daily supplementation of the following B vitamins: folic acid (800 mcg), vitamin B12 (500 mcg) and vitamin B6 (20 mg). The main outcome measured was change in rate of whole brain atrophy on MRI investigation after 24 months of supplementation compared to the placebo group. Study results showed that the group taking the B-vitamin cocktail experienced a 30-percent slower rate of brain atrophy, on average, and in some cases patients experienced reductions as high as 53 percent. Greater rates of atrophy were associated with lower cognitive test scores. In the control group, the the rate of atrophy was directly associated with elevated homocysteine levels.
Alternative Medicine Review 2007 (Mar); 12 (1): 73–78 ~ FULL TEXT
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin that is an essential cofactor for four carboxylase enzymes, each of which catalyzes an essential step in intermediary metabolism. Because humans and other mammals cannot synthesize biotin, it must be derived from dietary sources and de novo synthesis by intestinal bacteria. Besides genetic inborn errors of metabolism, biotin deficiency can occur during extended parenteral nutrition, pregnancy, or long-term anticonvulsant therapy. Conditions that may benefit from biotin supplementation include dyslipidemia, brittle nails, diabetes, dermatitis, and candidiasis.
Folic Acid Monograph
Alternative Medicine Review 2005 (Sep); 10 (3): 222–229 ~ FULL TEXT
Folic acid, also known generically as folate or folacin, is a member of the B-complex family of vitamins, and works in concert with vitamin B12. Folic acid functions primarily as a methyl-group donor involved in many important body processes, including DNA synthesis. Therapeutically, folic acid is instrumental in reducing homocysteine levels and the occurrence of neural tube defects. It may play a key role in preventing cervical dysplasia and protecting against neoplasia in ulcerative colitis. Folic acid also shows promise as part of a nutritional protocol to treat vitiligo, and may reduce inflammation of the gingiva. Furthermore, certain neurological, cognitive, and psychiatric presentations may be secondary to folate deficiency. Such presentations include peripheral neuropathy, myelopathy, restless legs syndrome, insomnia, dementia, forgetfulness, irritability, endogenous depression, organic psychosis, and schizophrenia-like syndromes.
B Vitamin Status and Concentrations of Homocysteine and Methylmalonic Acid
in Elderly German Women
Am J Clin Nutr 2003 (Oct); 78 (4): 765–772 Prior investigations found that elderly persons are at higher risk than are younger persons for B vitamin deficiency, which leads to elevated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) concentrations that are associated with an increased risk for certain diseases such as coronary artery disease. Even in younger, well-educated, female seniors, the prevalence of low B vitamin status and elevated plasma tHcy concentration is high. Thiamine, pyridoxine, folate, and cobalamin supplementation should be considered.
Consensus Paper on the Rational Clinical Use of Homocysteine, Folic Acid and B-vitamins in Cardiovascular and Thrombotic Diseases: Guidelines and Recommendations
Clin Chem Lab Med 2003 (Nov); 41 (11): 1392–1403
About half of all deaths are due to cardiovascular disease and its complications. The economic burden on society and the healthcare system from cardiovascular disability, complications, and treatments is huge and getting larger in the rapidly aging populations of developed countries. As conventional risk factors fail to account for part of the cases, homocysteine, a "new" risk factor, is being viewed with mounting interest. Folic acid deficiency is considered the most common cause of hyperhomocysteinemia. An adequate intake of at least 400 microg of folate per day is difficult to maintain even with a balanced diet, and high-risk groups often find it impossible to meet these folate requirements. Based on various calculation models, reduction of elevated plasma homocysteine concentrations may theoretically prevent up to 25% of cardiovascular events. Supplementation is inexpensive, potentially effective, and devoid of adverse effects and, therefore, has an exceptionally favorable benefit/risk ratio.
Nutrients_and_HIV Part II: Vitamins A and E, Zinc, B-Vitamins, and Magnesium
Alternative Medicine Review 2000 (Feb); 5 (1): 39–51 – FULL TEXT
Vitamin A deficiency is a common occurrence in HIV infection, and serum levels appear to decrease as the disease progresses. (1) Low serum levels of vitamin A were found in 12-19 percent of HIV-positive, asymptomatic subjects in the United States. (1,2) Vitamin A deficiency was found in an increasingly higher proportion of women than men (p< .01) in an HIV-infected, intravenous drug-using population. (3)
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