Lowering homocysteine levels (a hormone like substance produced by the body) can help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. For the first time researchers at the UK’s Dementia Research Institute have discovered what they believe to be the mechanism that causes brain cells to self destruct. This process, called necroptosis, has been known to cause AD and dementia, but until now, researchers have only speculated about what causes it. Now they think they have the answer. According to Professor Bart De Strooper (one of the co-authors of the study1) “For the first time we get a clue to how and why neurons die in Alzheimer’s disease. There’s been a lot of speculation for 30-40 years, but nobody has been able to pinpoint the mechanisms. It (this study) really provides strong evidence it’s this specific suicide pathway.”
Amazingly the answer is very simple! A protein in the brain called tau becomes phosphorylated, converting it to p-tau, making it tangled and dysfunctional. This in turn causes brain cells to self destruct, leading to cognitive decline. This process is the result of raised homocysteine levels, which block the production of an enzyme that protects the tau protein from tangling.
Lowering homocysteine levels reduces the production of another enzyme called Cdk5 kinase. This enzyme is the trigger for the tau protein to convert to the p-tau form, setting the tangling process in motion and ultimately leading to cell self destruction. Homocysteine can also bind with the protein, aggravating the tangling process and increasing brain cell death. Research has shown that a homocysteine level lower than 10mcmol/L will prevent this process. In the UK it’s estimated that approx. 50% of older people (65+) have far higher levels. In addition, homocysteine damages small blood vessels in the brain leading to mini-strokes (TIAs), which further aggravate the progression of AD and dementia.
Is it any wonder that the incidence of AD and dementia is skyrocketing?
The good news is that it’s simple and inexpensive to lower homocysteine levels. All that’s needed is adequate levels of B vitamins in the blood. A good quality, naturally derived, Vitamin B complex will lower homosysteine levels safely and effectively. Because Vit B is water soluble and cannot be stored in the body, one needs to use a sustained release Vit B Co on a daily basis. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies can’t charge exorbitant prices for Vit B, so it is unlikely that you will hear about it’s role in lowering homocysteine from the medical profession. The homocysteine lowering drugs available are not nearly as effective as Vit B and all have serious side effects.
Elevated homocysteine levels are also implicated in increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Other studies have shown that Omega 3, taken together with Vit B Co, play a vital role in protecting brain health. For more on this and other factors that can help protect your brain and reduce the risk of cognitive decline, read my previous blogs on the subject: