Vitamin B3 Possibly Prevents Brain Cell Death

In a breakthrough German-led study published in the journal, Cell Reports, they discovered that the death of nerve cells that occurs in Parkinson’s Disease could be stopped with Vitamin B3. This opens up a lot of possibilities when it comes to treating brain-wasting diseases.

Taking a closer look, nicotinamide riboside is the specific form of Vitamin B3 that is deemed to “stimulate the faulty energy metabolism in the affected nerve cells thereby protecting them from dying off.” In short, this form of Vitamin B3 can possibly preserve nerve cells by boosting their cell’s energy-producing centers, the mitochondria.

The Mitochondria and Parkinson’s Disease

Essentially, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, gradual and irreversible neurodegenerative disease. What this means is that this disease results from the death of brain cells, connected with the production of dopamine which is accountable for controlling movement. Consequently, Parkinson’s affects a person’s balance, coordination, and walking. Sometimes other symptoms are also felt like depression, fatigue, memory problems, and sleep disruption.

In the US alone, there are 600,000 new diagnoses of Parkinson’s every year aside from the 1 million who already have it. Scientists believe that the disease is a product of environmental and genetic factors that work together.

Mitochondria is known as the powerhouse of the cell where it has the capability to convert food into usable energy by the cell. Since nerve cells constantly need energy, they are much more dependent on the mitochondria. A damaged mitochondrion is a common feature for brain tissue deaths, and related diseases include Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Cause or Side Effect?

All these discoveries lead to the question, which comes first the chicken or the egg? Are faulty mitochondria the cause of the disease or the side effect? Dr. Deledi and his crew studied the effect of Vitamin B-3 on mitochondria and nerve cells.

The Outcome of Study on Vitamin B3

By far, the studies were only limited within the four walls of a laboratory, but the results have been optimistic. By feeding the cells with nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), the levels rise within the cells rise. As a result, it created new mitochondria within the cell and thereby increasing the cell’s energy production.

This study was then replicated using flies. In the flies that received the Vitamin B3 supplement, the flies showed substantially fewer dead nerve cells and they had longer retention of mobility in contrast to the flies that did not have B3 supplementation.

The next step in the study is to test the effects of vitamin B3 supplements on individuals with Parkinson’s. As Dr. Deledi has pointed out, “Administering nicotinamide riboside may be a new starting point for treatment and there is already evidence from other studies that show that vitamins do not have side effects when ingested.”

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More Research Points to Botanicals as Important to Brain Health

There is growing evidence that associates a better cognitive function with the Mediterranean diet. In fact, different studies have identified plant extracts that can help maintain good brain health among older adults and these include resveratrol, Ginkgo biloba, Bacopa monnieri, Theobroma cacao, ashwagandha, Crocus sativus, ginseng, curcumin, and rosemary. These plant extracts do delay not only the cognitive decline but also have protective effects against neurodegenerative disorders.

No Available Studies to Pin the Claim

While the botanical extracts have vast potential, research regarding their efficacy is still in its early stage, and even organizations that support complementary therapies have not yet endorsed the potential role of botanicals in improving cognitive health. The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) noted that no available and convincing evidence suggests that a particular supplement can prevent cognitive impairment particularly those that are associated with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Small Hints Found in Literature

Finding the exact mechanism and correlation still presents a challenge but the International Food Information Council noted that there are slight hints found in the literature regarding the links between food and brain health. The organization noted that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. As such, promising plant extracts such as resveratrol, curcumin, and theobromine are not only good for the heart but also for the brain.

But this does not mean that this is the end of the line for plant extracts. It might take some time for companies who work with such ingredients to find the missing link to validate their claims for a reliable clinical result. Thus, the primary challenge for those working in the field of pharmaceuticals is to pin down on a particular measurable improvement among the human subjects so that the cause and effect can be proven.


Continuous Research Needed on Botanicals

Pharmaceutical companies have been working to pin down the mechanism of action of certain plant extracts. For instance, the company Evolva is looking at the potential of resveratrol to improve cognitive function. Working with the Brain, Performance, and Nutrition Research Center of Northumbria University in the UK, both organizations are working on how resveratrol influences the gut health concerning brain health.

On the other hand, other companies are working with other plant extracts. For instance, Ixoreal that sells both ashwagandha and curcumin supplements focus on the history and effects while, at the same time, undertake clinical trials to support their claims.

The research regarding the efficacy of plant extracts is paying off as it continues to attract the development of new products. While there is a rise in plant extracts used to promote better brain health, market researchers indicate that the growth of this niche is only 0.4%. Thus there are still many issues that should be addressed before this niche can reach its full market potential. Having said this, there is still more work to do by the researchers, food manufacturers, or pharmaceutical companies before products that can boost cognitive function will be favored in the market.

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The Brain and Kale Connection

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Studies show that incorporating leafier green vegetables into one’s diet can help slow down cognitive decline especially among people in their advanced age. In a study conducted by the researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) and Rush University, they found out that those who consume 1 ½ servings of green leafy vegetables daily had the cognitive skills of people who are eleven years younger than those people who ate little to no leafy vegetables.

Dementia as A Global Crisis

The finding of this study is very significant considering that there is an increasing number of people in the United States who have dementia. In fact, the number of patients who have dementia is expected to rise to 15 million by 2050. However, it is not only in the United States that dementia is a big problem. Many seniors in Europe and Asia also have dementia. The rising number of patients who have dementia makes us wonder if there is a link between the disease and the type of diet we consume.

The study involved 960 adults between the ages 58 and 99. The participants took annual tests to assess different aspects of their brain function such as memory and learning. The researchers also looked into the amount of green leafy vegetables consumed by the participants.

What’s Inside Green Leafy Vegetables?

Published in the journal Neurology, the study concluded that better brain health was obtained by meeting dietary recommendations. Senior author of the study Sarah Booth noted that incorporating green leafy vegetables in one’s diet can have a lot of benefits, especially on the brain function. The reason why green leafy vegetables are so beneficial to brain function is that they contain significant amounts of vitamin K, folate, and lutein which slow down cognitive decline. Researchers suggest consuming all kinds of green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, watercress, and other locally sourced leafy greens.

Mechanisms Yet to Be Understood About The Brain and Kale Connection

While the study has very significant results about brain health and its protection, the publication opened and raised many questions about how the leafy greens mainly protect the brain. Unfortunately, the mechanism on how the brain is protected is still not fully understood. Sarah Booth noted that additional studies are underway involving studying different brain sections of deceased participants who agreed to donate their brain and other tissues for further studies.  This may well allow the researchers to unlock the mystery behind the brain and kale connection.

While the exact mechanism on how the eating leafy greens help protect the brain is yet to be understood, the message is quite apparent and that eating leafy green vegetables is useful not only for your body but even your mind especially when you get older. To date, the dietary recommendation states that eating at least one to 2 servings (or equivalent to two cups) of vegetables can do wonders for the brain, but you can always eat more. In any case, there is no overdose when it comes to eating green leafy vegetables. Only benefits… no dangers.

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Low Levels of Vitamin B12 in the Brain Could be Linked to Mental Decline

Vitamin B12 is not one of the headline supplements that you would expect to see when you pick up a nutritional magazine. Nutritionists and health experts have always had their suspicions on the link between the lack of Vitamin B12 intakes in the brain and conditions like dementia and mental decline. Multiple studies that have been carried out in the past to try to understand the linkage better.

But first, a little more about Vitamin B12. It is not among the most abundant of vitamins in the world. It is commonly found in a bacteria that happens to be very common in soil. We find natural forms on vitamin B12 in red meat, salmon, milk, eggs, leafy greens, beets, and almonds. There are other ways of getting vitamin B12. One of them is through synthetic supplements. It is not clear how much of the vitamin you should have to avert the risks that are closely associated with its deficiency. Some experts advise about 1,000 micrograms a week, and there are others that advise up to 250 micrograms a day. This translates to upwards of about 2,500 micrograms per week.

Vitamin B12 in the Blood vs. the Brain

It is important to note that the amount of Vitamin B12 in the blood is not parallel to the sum in the brain. The uptake process is what matters. In a recent study reported in the PLOS ONE journal, scientists were able to pinpoint the link between low Vitamin B12 levels in the brain to autism, schizophrenia, and old age dementia. The same study goes ahead to suggest that some other neurological diseases could be caused by the reduced uptake of Vitamin B12 from the blood stream. There have been other studies that have attempted to look for connections between this and other vitamin deficiencies to certain brain disorders.

While there is yet a definitive study that zeros in on these particular shortcomings, there have been other risks that have been directly associated with extreme vitamin deficiencies. These risks include depression, memory loss, mental decline, and even pregnancy complications. Vitamin B12 is critical for the formation of red blood cells and is also closely associated with the functioning of the central nervous system. Hence its importance in the body.

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Adding Natural Sources of Vitamin B12 to Your New Products

So, we are now wondering how we will formulate products with more vitamin B12? You could use synthetic vitamins with low bioavailability or you could use natural vitamins from whole food sources. NutriFusion is the leader in whole food nutrient fortification from fruits and vegetables. Our stabilization method enables food processors and consumer packaged food companies to add highly bioavailable nutrients to their products. If you are interested in learning more, please visit your respective category below.

Brain Health Connected To What We Eat

There are many ways to keep the mind sharp. Exercise, sleep, meditation and of course a healthy diet. A healthy and nutritious diet supports the brain rather than stifles it. A diet that forces the body to expend energy for digestion after eating steals energy from the brain for thinking. Brain supportive foods include fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, fish, lean meats, and certain fats such as those in nuts that have been processed naturally. They are not acidic, and they promote alkalinity in the body. Sugar and carbohydrates tax the body and make it sluggish and acidic.

Scientific American has concluded that there is a large correlation between a healthy diet and our mood. Depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, lack of focus and dementia come with age as well as the ability to control mood diminishes. Scientific American believes that the best way to combat the mood changes is by choosing a brain healthy diet.

Our Diet is a Big Indicator of Brain Health

Scientific American has listed three classifications that help the brain remain healthy. They state that foods rich in Omega-3 such as fish oil and fish help fight depression. Pickles and other fermented food help combat anxiety while antioxidant foods like green tea and fruits help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, forgetfulness, and eventual dementia.

We lack these types of food in the western diet. The diet of the West consists of processed or frozen food with high amounts of sugar, preservatives, coloring, flavorings, and bad cholesterol. A new study found out that western diets, such as fast food diets shrunk the brain’s hippocampus as evidenced by MRI scans. The hippocampus is that part of the brain that is essential for memory and mood control.

In another study conducted at Rush University in Chicago, it was concluded that a combination of a Mediterranean diet with a high nutrient, low salt diet helped prevent hypertension and Alzheimer’s disease. The adults tested even had higher scores in cognitive abilities than people who were younger than them. This study was done on a thousand subjects.

We still have a lot to learn when it comes to determining the relationship between diet and brain health, but we know without a doubt that food is connected to our health.

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