Although aging is inevitable, the process can be delayed and prevented. According to research, about one of every five people in the world will suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease before they hit 70, and although there’s no cure for this progressive mental disease, it’s effects can be controlled.
According to a 1990 study which examined 22 subjects, the main cause of the disease may be high homocysteine levels in the blood. The study was based on the findings of one doctor in the 60s, who examined two unfortunate boys whose brains were turned to mush. After thorough tests, the doctor noticed that the boys had something in common – the homocysteine levels in the blood were far over the allowed limit. He concluded that this was the reason for their problems, but not many experts paid much attention to these findings until the 1990 study.
Today, homocysteine is considered one of the major factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and is associated with cognitive decline as well. The 1990 study found out that one in every six cases of Alzheimer’s can be attributed to high homocysteine levels. The compound is so harmful to our brain that it can cause severe brain damage and cognitive decline as well.
The body can clean out the excess homocysteine from the blood, and it does so by using vitamins B6 and B12 as well as folate. However, nowadays we often lack at least one of these nutrients. Studies have been conducted on how these 3 nutrients work, but the results weren’t very successful. They still provided some insight, though – a double-blind randomized controlled study showed that B vitamins can indeed slow down the rate of cognitive decline and reduce the brain shrinkage in patients with mild cognitive impairment. The brain atrophy is normal due to aging, but it’s highly accelerated in cases Alzheimer’s disease. So, the theory is that if we slow down the brain atrophy, we would be able to deal with the onset of the disease.
Two years in the study, the patients that were put on B vitamins supplements had significantly lower levels of homocysteine in their blood and the rate of brain shrinkage was slowed down as well. The main problem with these three important nutrients is that we rarely get much of them. People usually lack folate the most. The nutrient is present in green beans and green veggies which we eat less than before, which results in folate deficiency and cognitive decline.
The key is to get enough of all three nutrients in order to prevent the accelerated brain shrinkage and Alzheimer’s disease. According to scientists, consuming a plant-based diet can reduce the levels of homocysteine in your blood by 20% per week. Plants also contain a lot of fiber, which can further elevate the levels of folate in our blood. Additionally, by reducing the amount of methionine in our blood, we can boost the production vitamins in our body and prevent cognitive decline. If you’re wondering what methionine is, it’s a precursor to homocysteine which can raise the levels of this harmful compound.
However, even people on a plant-based diet were found to have high homocysteine levels. The problem is that most of them were not getting enough vitamin B12, while they were getting enough fiber and folate. Vegans are more prone to hyperhomocysteinaemia (high levels of homocysteine in the blood) due to their low vitamin B12 intake, which can be fixed by consuming foods such as soy-based meat alternatives, fish, cereal or clams. By keeping the intake of all three nutrients at an optimal level, we will be able to prevent the accelerated brain shrinkage and protect ourselves from the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.