A recent paper by the University of Delaware researchers reveals the potential connection between vitamin B12 supplementation and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) development and progression.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative brain disorder affecting over 6 million Americans. And there’s currently no effective treatment or cure for it.
Multiple causes, including amyloid beta deposition, energy crisis, and oxidative stress in the brain cells, contribute to its development. While some AD risk factors are unavoidable and non-modifiable (e.g., aging, genetics), others are more flexible and offer room for modification (e.g., diet).
However, the complexity of the disease, human genetic structure, microbiota, and dietary habits made it challenging to investigate the pathogenesis in humans.
On the one hand, AD development and progression take years. Moreover, the human diet is complex, as it includes many nutrients (e.g., proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals), and it’s incredibly challenging to identify the ones with neuroprotective properties.
This is how C. elegans, worms genetically similar to humans, came into play. Researchers used them to study the impact of diet on proteotoxicity.
The accumulation of amyloid beta in the human brain over the years is harmful to the cells. It leads to decreased energy, mitochondrial fragmentations, and oxidative stress from excess free radicals.
The same thing happens in C. elegans—but within hours. When exposed to amyloid beta protein, a harmful peptide involved in AD development, the worms quickly get paralyzed.
Researchers found that worms on a B12-fortified diet showed a significant delay in paralysis, higher energy levels, and lower oxidative stress.
However, the delay was noticeable only in vitamin B12 deficient worms. Supplementing non-deficient C. elegans with B12 produced no such results. What’s more, vitamin B12 supplementation didn’t influence amyloid beta levels.
Though more research is required to confirm the effect of vitamin B12 on AD progression, this study gives hope for future treatment development and a more favorable AD prognosis.