Dear Pharmacist: B vitamins improve memory

The best Bs to support memory are vitamin The best Bs to support memory are vitamin B6, B9 (folate), B2 (riboflavin) and B12. Photo Credit: AP

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Dear Pharmacist,

I read your Facebook post about improving memory with B vitamins. Can you elaborate? --C.K., Nashville, Tenn.

Most people know that ginkgo, vinpocetine, Eleuthero and Acetyl L-carnitine support memory function but they don't usually consider the B vitamins brain food like I do. The best Bs to support memory are vitamin B6, B9 (folate), B2 (riboflavin) and B12. The reason these serve your memory is because they reduce homocysteine, an amino acid that you create as you break down protein. Too much homocysteine, and you'll constantly forget things. I believe that reducing homocysteine with B vitamins is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to preserve memory. Studies back me.

As far back as 2002, physicians had the data to prove that homocysteine levels correlate with dementia and Alzheimer's risk. The higher the homocysteine, the more damage to your brain. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. A few years later, the 2005 Framingham Offspring Study printed in the American Journal of Epidemiology and concluded high homocysteine levels impacted memory. The study participants were, on average 61 years old. What would've been the outcome for those folks had someone told them to improve B vitamin status when they were in their mid 40s?

What about you? A simple blood test can determine your homocysteine level. High levels also happen to be associated with heart attack, stroke, blood clots and atherosclerosis. If you have high homocysteine, I recommend supplementing with vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (methylcobalamin), B2 (riboflavin) and B9 (folate), these are the only things that reduce homocysteine well. You can also simplify everything by taking a B complex vitamin.

Here's more perspective, according to the Framingham study, homocysteine levels higher than 10 micromoles per liter increased the risk of "dementia" by 75 percent. Levels higher than 14 double your risk for Alzheimer's disease. The Rotterdam study, found that men or women with the highest homocysteine levels almost doubled their risk of fracture.

Medicine raises homocysteine indirectly too. If you've read my "Drug Mugger" book, you'd know there are hundreds of medications that deplete B vitamins. Your medicine steals your probiotics too, and you need those to manufacture certain B vitamins in your GI tract. So any drug that steals probiotics (or B2, B6, B12 or folate) can raise your homocysteine level, and therefore contribute to memory loss. There are hundreds of drugs, including antacids, acid-blocking (reflux) medications, menopausal hormones, birth control pills, antibiotics, blood pressure drugs and steroids that alter B vitamin levels. Talk with your doctor about a blood test to determine your homocysteine level, and ask if you can take a B vitamin because there are a handful of meds that interact. Eat your Bs in green and leafy vegetables. B complex supplements are sold nationwide.

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Did You Know? Never combine your anti-anxiety or sleep medications with alcohol or sedating herbs like Kava Kava.

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