Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

January 30, 2017

If, like me, Alzheimer’s disease has affected someone near you and really scares you, you’ll be happy to learn that we are not powerless against it. Several studies show that there are strategies you can follow to prevent this terrible disease.

 B Vitamins


Normal aged brain on the left; brain of an Alzheimer’s patient on the right

We know that homocysteine, a metabolic waste product, is associated with several degenerative conditions. An elevated level of homocysteine is a risk factor in brain atrophy and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. We also know that the best way to reduce levels of homocysteine is to take B vitamins (B6, folate, B12) and that taking a vitamin B complex helps to slow down brain atrophy. However, not all studies on B vitamins are positive, and this is because study protocols are too varied: different doses, health of the patients at the beginning of the study, combination or not with other substances, etc. What’s more, a meta-analysis did not come to a conclusive result on the effect on B vitamins on cognitive decline.

Omega 3

We know that certain studies on Omega 3 show an effect on brain health. In fact, it has been noted that cognitive decline is inversely proportional to omega 3 levels, especially DHA. Taking omega 3 supplements helps the body to get rid of those famous amyloid proteins in the brain. Here as well, studies are not all conclusive, for the same reasons.

Better Taken Together

And what if the effect of B vitamins was related to Omega 3, and vice versa? In other words, what if these two groups of nutrients worked together to prevent cognitive decline? A little bit like rain and sunshine are both essential to plants. Just one isn’t enough. Thus, perhaps the failure of treatments with just one of these groups of nutrients (B vitamin or Omega 3) is due to the deficiency of the other, and that success depends on getting enough of both…

In the online edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Imrich Blasko of the department of Psychiatry of the University of Innsbruck, Austria, signed an editorial that poses this fundamental question. He notes that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease due to the presence of the gene apolipoprotein E (allele E4) could be reduced with DHA (omega 3) supplementation and sufficient levels of B vitamins, and that low levels of homocysteine are needed for proper distribution and optimal use of Omega 3’s.

This was actually demonstrated by F. Jerneren and his collaborators at Oxford University, England: B vitamins are useful if Omega 3’s are present in sufficient quantity.

Dr. Blasko also mentions that what is always missing from this picture is the capacity to identify patients who are at risk, and that it is not possible to recommend interventions without more details, and therefore more research.

On that point, I do not agree. For us, ordinary people with a risk factor (parent) or simply the desire to keep our mind alert as long as possible, is this information not sufficient to attempt to keep this condition at bay thanks to benign tools, beneficial on many levels and available over the counter? I’m curious to know if Dr. Blasko takes Omega 3 and B vitamin supplements. I bet he does.


Give Yourself Every Chance

Can I guarantee that, if you follow all this advice, your brain will remain alert for the rest of your life? Unfortunately not. However, with all these tools, we have the capacity to prevent the principle risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Wishing you the best health.

READ ALSO >> Alzheimer’s and Cognitive Decline: Prevention and Possible Treatments

References :

  1. Zheng Z, Wang J, Yi L, Yu H, Kong L, Cui W, Chen H, Wang C. Correlation between behavioural and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer type dementia and plasma homocysteine concentration. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:383494. doi: 10.1155/2014/383494. PubMed PMID: 24995291; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4065769.
  2. Douaud G, Refsum H, de Jager CA, Jacoby R, Nichols TE, Smith SM, Smith AD. Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 4;110(23):9523-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1301816110. PubMed PMID: 23690582; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3677457.
  3. Clarke R, Bennett D, Parish S, Lewington S, Skeaff M, Eussen SJ, Lewerin C, Stott DJ, Armitage J, Hankey GJ, Lonn E, Spence JD, Galan P, de Groot LC, Halsey J, Dangour AD, Collins R, Grodstein F; B-Vitamin Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration. Effects of homocysteine lowering with B vitamins on cognitive aging: meta-analysis of 11 trials with cognitive data on 22,000 individuals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Aug;100(2):657-66. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.076349. PubMed PMID: 24965307; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4095663.
  4. Baierle M, Vencato PH, Oldenburg L, Bordignon S, Zibetti M, Trentini CM, Duarte MM, Veit JC, Somacal S, Emanuelli T, Grune T, Breusing N, Garcia SC. Fatty acid status and its relationship to cognitive decline and homocysteine levels in the elderly. Nutrients. 2014 Sep 12;6(9):3624-40. doi: 10.3390/nu6093624. PubMed PMID: 25221976; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4179179.
  5. Fiala M, Halder RC, Sagong B, Ross O, Sayre J, Porter V, Bredesen DE. ω-3 Supplementation increases amyloid-β phagocytosis and resolvin D1 in patients with minor cognitive impairment. FASEB J. 2015 Mar 24. pii: fj.14-264218. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25805829.
  6. Freund-Levi Y, Eriksdotter-Jönhagen M, Cederholm T, Basun H, Faxén-Irving G, Garlind A, Vedin I, Vessby B, Wahlund LO, Palmblad J. Omega-3 fatty acid treatment in 174 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease: OmegAD study: a randomized double-blind trial. Arch Neurol. 2006 Oct;63(10):1402-8. PubMed PMID: 17030655.
  7. Blasko I. Interaction of n-3 fatty acids with B vitamins in slowing the progression of brain atrophy: identifying the elderly at risk. Am J Clin Nutr 2015 June 10. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.114322. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26063691.
  8. Jernerén F, Elshorbagy AK, Oulhaj A, Smith SM, Refsum H, Smith AD. Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Apr 15. pii: ajcn103283. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25877495.


Jean-Yves Dionne
Jean-Yves Dionne is a pharmacist, educator, lecturer, scientific advisor, and consultant in natural health products (NHPs). He is a regular lecturer at the Universities of Montreal and Laval. He writes for many publications such as Montreal en Santé and sits on the editorial board of the Natural Medicine Journal, the official journal of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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