The B vitamins are eight water-soluble vitamins that were once considered a single vitamin, but are actually chemically distinct nutrients that tend to be present in similar foods, including meat, eggs, dairy products, green vegetables and whole grains. As a group, they are responsible for several important functions, including supporting metabolism, enhancing immune and nervous system function, maintaining healthy skin and muscle tone, and promoting cell growth and division.
Three of the B vitamins have also been linked to brain health. The results of several research studies suggest that consuming adequate amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 throughout one's lifetime may play a key role in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia as we age. This evidence was strengthened by a study that found patients with Alzheimer's disease had higher blood levels of homocysteine (an amino acid in the blood) than members of the age-matched control group who were not afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Individuals with higher blood levels of homocysteine were several times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease than those with lower blood homocysteine levels.
And what is the strongest determinant of blood homocysteine levels, unless there is an overriding genetic defect of some major consequence? The nutritional status of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
Taken together, the body of evidence continues to support the contention that B vitamin nutritional status is crucial to the development and preservation of mental capacities throughout our lifetime. The sad reality is that many midlife and older members of society have poor dietary intake and nutritional status of various B vitamins. Pay attention to foods that are rich sources of these important B vitamins and talk to your doctor about the multitude of benefits available from daily use of a well-formulated multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.