Vitamin B important for brain defense

Q: Can you tell me which B vitamins will protect me from Alzheimer’s, and how much I should take? — Anonymous

A: Like many questions about Alzheimer’s, yours — to B or not to B — is still open. There’s one fascinating British study of older people with mild memory problems who took either real or fake high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid for two years. Afterward, the vitamin takers had 30 to 50 percent less brain shrinkage and scored higher on cognitive tests than those who got the fakes.

It will take more than one study for us to recommend mega-doses of B to protect your brain. Still, this research is intriguing enough for us to say you’d be smart to take Bs at doses somewhat higher than the amounts needed to prevent a deficiency. Not only is there the possibility that you’ll defend your brain against Alzheimer’s, but there’s a good chance you’ll also lower your risk of heart disease, depression, stroke, vision loss and lung cancer.

We suggest 6 mg of B6 and 700 mcg of folic acid; how much B12 you need depends on your age. Figure at least 25 mcg, but that goes way up if you’re over 50, because your body’s production of the digestive juices you need to absorb B12 starts to decline then. After celebrating that major birthday, start taking 400-800 mcg of B12 daily.

Look for all of these Bs in food, too: Folic acid and B12 are abundant in fortified whole grains, fruit juices and cereals; B6 is high in tuna, potatoes, chicken and bananas.

Q: Is there a special paper I should use with a French press coffee maker to reduce levels of the compound that raises bad cholesterol? — Carol, Canada

A: You know you’re in trouble when medical studies single out the French press method as the unhealthiest way to brew coffee. The problem? Coffee that’s not filtered through paper has more cafestol, a substance that affects the liver in ways that raise your lousy LDL cholesterol.

Many people think French press coffee tastes better than drip coffee, which is why the press is so popular. As far as we know, there’s no such thing as a paper filter for a French press coffee maker. Instead, it uses a fine metal mesh with some thin paper lining (a small portion of paper towel actually works in ours) to filter coffee grounds as you press the plunger through the liquid. There is a hybrid version, a single-cup coffee maker called an AeroPress, that combines a press with a paper filter, but we haven’t sampled its brew.

Save the French press for special occasions, like breakfast in bed.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of “YOU: On a Diet.” Want more? See “The Dr. Oz Show” on TV. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com.

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