B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients involved in numerous metabolic processes that play a significant role in cognitive health.

Previous research suggests a potential impact of aging and the relationship of vitamin B6

on polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) metabolism. Limited information is known about the interrelationships between vitamin B6 and PUFAs in the elderly population.

According to a study published earlier this month in Nutrients, researchers investigated the associations of vitamin B6 intake and plasma pyridoxal 5-phosphate (PLP) levels along with plasma PUFA concentrations and ratios in older adults. In addition, they further investigated the relationship of adequate vitamin B6 status with high plasma PUFA compared to a deficient vitamin B6 status.

This cross-sectional study consisted of 461 participants at the age of 60 years and older from NHANES 2003–2004. Nutrient intakes were assessed using two 24-h recalls and supplement questionnaires. Vitamin B6 and PUFA concentrations were assessed. As a result, a higher vitamin B6 level in older adults was associated with a higher level of EPA, DHA, EPA + DHA, EPA/AA, and (EPA + DHA)/AA. Also, adequate vitamin B6 status was associated with high EPA and EPA/AA status. These findings demonstrate that sufficient vitamin B6 status positively effects PUFA metabolism in older adults.

I previously shared the importance b-vitamin and its relationship to omega-3 status in cognitive health. There was an interesting study published January 6, 2016 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Prior studies have already established that B vitamins can slow cognitive decline in the elderly. This was most effective in those who had above average homocysteine levels, which is a common biomarker related to B vitamin status that may be toxic to the brain.  The research team found that there was a link between Omega-3 levels, homocysteine, and brain atrophy rates. There has been links between homocysteine and omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, B vitamins are essential for the synthesis of phospholipids.  In this study researchers investigated whether omega-3 fatty acid status had an effect on the treatment of B vitamins in mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Two hundred and sixty-six participants with MCI over 70 year of age were randomized to B vitamins (folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12) or placebo for 2 years. Researchers performed baseline cognitive test performance, clinical dementia rating (CDR) scale, and plasma concentrations of homocysteine, DHA, and EPA fatty acids. The final results for verbal delayed recall, global cognition, and CDR were better in the B vitamin-treated group according to increasing baseline concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. In contrast, the scores in the placebo group were similar across these concentrations. Among those with good omega-3 status, 33% of those on B vitamin treatment had global CDR scores >0 compared with 59% among those on placebo. Among all 3 outcome measures, higher concentrations of DHA alone significantly improved the cognitive effects of B vitamins, whereas EPA appeared to be less effective.

This study demonstrated that B vitamins had no effect on cognitive decline in MCI when omega-3 levels are low. However, when omega-3 levels are in an upper normal range, B vitamins slow cognitive decline and brain atrophy. These findings suggest that a combination of fish oil supplements and B vitamins may help to improve cognition and reduce age-related memory decline.

In conclusion, there are important synergistic interrelationships between omega-3 and b-vitamins. These studies demonstrate the importance of a comprehensive approach nutritionally and not a monotherapy approach.

By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS

Source: Kim Hyojung, Enrione Evelyn B, et al. Associations of Vitamin B6 Intake and Plasma Pyridoxal 5′-Phosphate with Plasma Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in US Older Adults: Findings from NHANES 2003-2004. Nutrients. 2022 Jun2;14(11):2336.

Abderrahim Oulhaja, Fredrik Jerneren, Helga Refsum, A. David Smith, Celeste A. de Jager. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status Enhances the Prevention of Cognitive Decline by B Vitamins in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 547-557, 2016.  

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