Two supplements found to stop your brain shrinking by 70 percent - boosting memory and thinking power


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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 16/04/2024

- 14:57

Updated: 18/04/2024

- 15:06

B vitamins and omega-3 deliver a potent one-two punch against brain decline, research suggests

Supplements are often long on promise and short on results. However, a powerful mix of nutrients bucks this trend. Research shows a combination of B vitamins and omega-3 can stop the brain from shrinking by over 70%, paving the way for a new weapon against dementia and cognitive decline.

The discovery, which has been hailed as “a major step towards Alzheimer’s prevention", was first made at the University of Oxford, but has now been confirmed by research groups in Holland, Sweden and China and a review of 14 studies just published in the British Journal of Nutrition.


The combined research, which included a total of 4913 people who were followed up between six months and four years concluded “increasing intake of both nutrients benefits cognition in older adults compared to placebo".

Headed by Professor David Smith, former Chair of Pharmacology and Deputy Head of the Division of Medical Sciences at Oxford and director of the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), the research found that giving older people with the first signs of cognitive impairment supplemental B vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid) at higher levels than can be achieved through diet to those with sufficient omega-3 fats produced 73 percent less brain shrinkage in a year, compared to placebo.

This reduction brought brain shrinkage down to the level found in those elderly with no cognitive decline, a separate study showed.

“The effect is greater than that of any drug treatment to date - with no adverse effects," said Professor Smith.

In contrast the recent trials of anti-amyloid drugs only show an insignificant reduced brain shrinkage of four percent.

How does it work?

The key lies in breaking down homocysteine - a toxic amino acid that accumulates when there is a lack of B vitamins in your body. Homocysteine accelerates the rate of brain shrinkage.

Some degree of atrophy and subsequent brain shrinkage is common with old age, even in people who are cognitively healthy.

However, this atrophy is accelerated in people with mild cognitive impairment and even faster in those who ultimately progress from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.

This cause problems with thinking, memory and performing everyday tasks.

A raised homocysteine level therefore means something is going wrong with a vital process that controls how we think, feel and perceive.

And it's entirely dependent on B vitamins. Vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid break down homocysteine, thereby reducing brain shrinkage.

Man handling a bottle of supplements

Vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid break down homocysteine, thereby reducing brain shrinkage

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Some people absorb B12 less well. Others just need more of the B vitamin than others and that biochemical individuality, especially if their diet is already deficient, psychologist and author Patrick Holford tells GB News, adding that it "can tip them into a mental or neurological illness".

Through his non-profit, Food for the Brain, Mr Holford has made it his mission to spread the word about the power of combining B vitamins and omega-3.

Three other research groups, in Holland, China and Sweden, have confirmed the combined effect of omega-3 and B vitamins is far greater than either nutrient on its own.

In Holland, a major trial called B-proof found no benefit at all from the B vitamins in those with low omega-3 status, but a massive improvement in cognition in those with sufficient omega-3 levels.

A Swedish trial that had given older people omega-3 fish oils but found no significant cognitive benefit reanalysed their results splitting the participants into thirds – from the lowest to highest B vitamin status. The group with sufficient vitamin B, indicated by a low level of blood homocysteine, showed three times the clinical improvement reported from the recent Lecanemab anti-amyloid drug trial.v

Meanwhile a trial in China gave those with pre-dementia either the B vitamin folic acid, or omega-3, or both, compared to placebo. Although B vitamin treatment and omega-3 treatment did slightly improve cognitive cores, the improvement was much greater in those given both these nutrients.

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