Look beyond the headlines

Last month, researchers at Oxford University in the U.K. said there’s no reason to supplement with B vitamins for your brain health. Of course, the story made headlines.

But as I often warn, the press will trumpet the results of a single study that fails to show the benefits of dietary supplementation a hundred times more loudly and persistently than it will for dozens of studies that show their benefits.

I also advise you to look beyond the headlines to the details of the actual study. Often, these details are buried so obscurely in the pages of the arcane scientific source, no mainstream reporter bothers to read them. Or, if reporters do bother to read the whole scientific study, rather than a press release, they rarely understand the details.

So, right off the bat, I knew I needed to investigate Oxford’s ridiculous blanket recommendations against taking B vitamins for brain health. And I’ll tell you what I discovered in a moment. But first, let’s back up and look at a well-designed vitamin B study from last year…

In this study, researchers from Washington University, St. Louis, found that men and women with brain atrophy in key regions associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) dramatically improved with B-vitamin treatment. This study followed patients over two years. And the men and women on B vitamin treatment markedly slowed down their brain shrinkage. The researchers said this treatment represents “high-dose” B-vitamin therapy.

But let’s look at the actual amounts employed in the study. Turns out, the participants took less than 0.5 mg of B12, 0.8 mg of folic acid (just twice the RDA), and just 20 mg B6.

As you may know, a milligram is one one-thousandth of a gram. And several grams can fit inside a teaspoon. And this study used less than a milligram of B12 and of folic acid.

I’m sure to the quasi-government bureaucrats who design the ridiculous Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) these amounts might sound high. But no real nutritional expert would consider these miniscule amounts “high doses” of B vitamins.

But, despite being so small, these doses of B vitamins reduced shrinkage by seven times in brain regions vulnerable to AD, including the temporal lobe. The researchers also pointed out, as you already know, that clinical drug trials for dementia have been a “wash.” So they were particularly enthusiastic that their findings pointed to an available, affordable, safe, and natural alternative.

The prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also appeared enthusiastic about the results. They devoted an unprecedented 13 pages to the study, as well as extensive commentary about it.

Of course, many other studies over the last decade have shown the benefits of B vitamins for brain and nervous system tissue. And it’s a simple cure for peripheral neuropathy. In fact, in Europe, they have greater acceptance and recognition of B vitamins’ benefits. And they even call the B vitamins “neuro-vitamins.”

But it appears in the U.S., the mainstream simply could not allow these dramatic findings to remain unanswered. The press here loves drama. Perhaps when they saw the new, negative Oxford study they quickly thought, “could this new information reverse everything we thought we knew about B vitamins?”

But no good scientist would use one negative study–limited to one vitamin and one disease–to extrapolate his or her findings and discount taking any vitamin for any purpose! Even if it came out of Oxford!

Plus, Oxford’s data had nothing to say about any other aspect of brain health, such as stroke, not to mention heart health. And that’s a shame. Because B vitamins are clearly so important for heart health as well. In fact, my former neighbor in Massachusetts spent a lifetime establishing that B vitamins lower homocysteine and the risk of heart disease. (I recently told subscribers to my Insiders’ Cures newsletter all about his work. I will also give you all the details about the B vitamins you need to get in the February issue. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)

But the press on the Oxford study made it sound like B vitamins don’t work across the board. And they blankly dismissed the probability that getting optimal doses of all vitamins is important for brain health.

So what can you do to make sure you get enough B vitamins to support your brain, nervous system, and heart?

First, make sure to eat a healthy diet filled with wild salmon, chicken, beef, and green, leafy vegetables. Also, don’t shy away from eggs as they contain good amounts of biotin, vitamin B2, and vitamin B12.

But, keep this in mind…

It’s very hard in today’s day and age to get all your nutritional needs from diet alone.  Especially when you consider the faulty RDAs and the poor nutritional content of many foods. In fact, the nutritional content and quality of “natural” foods, like produce and meats, has gone down substantially over the last 80 years. So even if you strive to follow a healthy diet, very often that’s not enough.

So, to that end, I advise everyone to take a high-quality B-complex supplement daily.

P.S. Tune back in for tomorrow’s Daily Dispatch to learn more about how and why the Oxford scientists got it all wrong in their shameful vitamin B study.


  1. “Preventing Alzheimer’s disease-related gray matter atrophy by B-vitamin treatment,” National Academy of Sciences 2013; 110 (23): 9523-9528