By the time a person reaches his or her seventies, one in five people will develop cognitive impairment. And within 5 years of that, half of those people will progress to dementia. Although doctors do not currently have an effective treatment for things like dementia and Alzheimer’s, they have found ways to slow down the process and maybe even prevent it.
Throughout the years, researchers have linked high levels of homocysteine as a major risk factor for the development of brain damage and cognitive and memory decline. In fact, just having a blood level of homocysteine over 14 may double your risk. The good news is that our bodies can actually detoxify this harmful amino acid using three vitamins: folate, vitamin B12, and B6.
So why are things like dementia and Alzheimer’s on the rise? Perhaps we can attribute this to the standard American diet. In fact, we know that meat alone is a direct source of homocysteine, a breakdown product of methionine, which comes mostly from animal protein. While many people get their B12 and B6 vitamins from animal products, many suffer to get enough folate which comes from dark, leafy greens and beans. A whopping 96% of Americans do not even make the minimum requirements for these foods on a daily basis. In fact, research has shown that people put on a plant-based diet for only one week decreased their homocysteine levels by 20%.
While researchers still aren’t 100% sure why these vitamins slow down brain atrophy, they do believe it may be because of the fiber found in these foods or from a decreased methionine intake, which causes the build up homocysteine in our bodies. All in all, whether you are vegetarian, vegan or a meat-eater: folate, vitamin B12 and B6 should definitely be on your radar.