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.