Vitamins and dietary supplements
Consumption of various dietary supplements, including vitamins, particularly B-vitamins,
has been proposed as a way to prevent and treat dementia. There is some
evidence only that high dose B vitamins may slow cognitive decline. Currently,
only a deficiency in vitamin B12 can be reliably linked to Alzheimer disease and
cognitive decline in the U.S. population. Although many foods are fortified
with B vitamins, vitamin B12 deficiency is found among the elderly occurring in
3%, and borderline deficiency in up to 20% of persons age 50 and older. B12 deficiency
is usually the result of increased prevalence of atrophic gastritis that limits
stomach acid production and because of other digestive conditions like celiac and
Crohn’s disease that interfere with absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine.
B12 deficiency can also occur among long-term vegans since animal products are
the only source of naturally occurring vitamin B12.
Because the body can store a substantial amount of vitamin B12, the development
of deficiency can be a slow, insidious process that takes years to develop. B12 deficiency
causes anemia, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and psychiatric disturbances
such as depression, as well as degeneration of the spinal cord, and peripheral nerve
damage that results in symptoms such as numbness and tingling. Injected or orally
administered synthetic vitamin B12, a form that is easily absorbed, can reverse the
symptoms of the neurologic syndrome, including the cognitive disturbances, but
the nerve damage from the vitamin B12 deficiency syndrome is irreversible if left
The role of sleep
The glymphatic system that eliminates the brain’s waste products, such as the beta-
amyloid associated with Alzheimer dementia, functions mainly during sleep.
Although it is not possible to definitively say if poor sleep is the cause or the result
of the small brain infarcts (microinfarcts) that are linked to dementia, there is a
strong association between sleep disturbance and dementia. There is evidence that
untreated sleep apnea, a cause of disrupted sleep, is associated with mild cognitive
impairment and Alzheimer disease 10 years sooner than its occurrence among those
without the disorder. In one study, autopsies of the one-quarter of men with the
lowest oxygen levels during prior sleep tests were almost four times more likely to
show microinfarcts in the brain, compared to men with the highest oxygen levels.
Men who spent less time in slow-wave sleep—the deep, restorative stage of sleep
—tended to show more atrophy in their brain tissue.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.