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Micronutrients Can Benefit the Aging Brain

With life expectancy increasing worldwide, there has been a parallel rise in age-related health problems. Complications related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia are now among the most common causes of death in adults aged over sixty-five.

Dementia is a collective name for brain syndromes that affect memory, thinking, behavior, and emotions. While dementia has a variety of causes, Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed in more than 70 percent of those suffering from it. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.5 million Americans over the age of sixty-five now have Alzheimer’s disease. A further 360,000 have the early-onset form of the disease that occurs before the age of sixty-five.

At present there is no cure for dementia. However, incorporating dietary supplements such as multivitamins, vitamin C and other antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids may help delay the aging of the brain and other organ systems.

The harmful effects of oxidative stress on aging are well known. Oxidative stress reflects the cellular damage caused by free radicals. The body is exposed to free radicals through normal internal metabolic processes, and also external sources such as unhealthy food, smoking, alcohol, X-rays, and other pollutants.

A healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, and lifestyle changes including physical exercise, mental activity, and alcohol and smoking cessation are known to delay not only the symptoms of dementia but also many other chronic health problems. Micronutrients with antioxidative properties can effectively neutralize free radicals and improve health. Vitamins C, D, E, and B complex, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and iron protect the body’s cells from free radical damage.

The brain has a high rate of oxygen consumption and is thus prone to oxidative damage. In addition, the brain’s arteries are exposed to higher mechanical stress due to their proximity to the heart. This can lead to damage of the arterial walls and atherosclerosis. Unlike most other cells in the body, the brain has an extra layer of protection known as the blood-brain barrier. While this protects it from toxins and other pathogens, it also makes it difficult for many nutrients to reach the brain.

There are several micronutrients that can effectively cross and repair the blood-brain barrier. These include vitamins C, B12, B5, and D, folic acid, the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), N-acetylcysteine, glutathione, and certain minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Among these, vitamin C is critical for brain health. The vitamin C concentration in the brain is ten times higher than that in the rest of the body.

Researchers at the Dr. Rath Research Institute have published a study proving that a long-term high vitamin C intake is critical towards maintaining brain health and preventing oxidative damage. The results also show that a high vitamin C intake reduces plaque formation and blockages in the arteries of the brain, thus offering further protection.

Although there is no drug medication that can cure dementia, high doses of vitamin C and other readily available micronutrients are proven to slow down the aging not just of the brain, but also of all other organ systems of the body.

Study reference: Age and Dietary Vitamin C Intake Affect Brain Physiology in Genetically Modified Mice Expressing Human Lipoprotein(A) and Unable to Synthesize Vitamin C. Shi L. et al, Current Aging Science, 2021.