Need vitamin B to ward off alzheimers? Eat virtuous bread.

In her book Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit, published in 1954, Adele Davis, an American nutritionist had this to say about the B vitamins:  “In fact, there are only four good sources of these vitamins:  liver, brewers’ yeast, wheat germ, and rice polish.  A few foods are high in one or two B vitamins, but to obtain our daily requirement of all of them from such foods is impossible.”  The few foods about which she spoke include leafy greens, meat, seeds, and nuts.  Although Adele Davis has her detractors, the information on sources of vitamin B is correct although we now know that the germ of any grain is high in all the B vitamins so we do not have to be limited to wheat germ alone.  Spelt and rye, for example, will do just as well.  The conclusion we have to draw from Adele Davis’ work in the fifties is that bread made of whole grains is one of the most important foods available to us. 

Switching to whole grain bread is a good first step.  However, it is important to understand that the majority of the bread on offer is made with flour that is industrially milled, and industrially milled flour has some limitations.  In the industrial milling process, grain is ground by metal rollers that both heat up the grain and put it under enormous pressure, thus destroying some of its nutritional value.  Further, the bran and the germ are separated out as the grain is milled, in order to make it easier for the miller to package white flour which is by far the majority of the flour sold in the West.  To produce brown or whole meal flour, the bran and germ are added back in again in particular proportions. However, the process of “adding back in again” coming where it does, does not guarantee that flour is actually whole meal. 

If you want to get the full vitamin B value out of a whole meal loaf, you should buy bread that is made with (or bake bread with) whole meal flour that has been stone ground.  Stone millers put grain in the top of the mill and collect flour at the bottom – bran, germ, and all. This guarantees that the whole meal flour they sell contains all of the goodness that the bran and germ have to offer.  Even the white flour produced by stone millers is more nutritious than industrially milled white flour both because it is milled under lower pressure and temperature and because it has had the opportunity to absorb some of the essential oils from the bran and the germ before they are sieved out.

If you want more vitamin B to make sure your brain does not shrink, eat liver, brewers yeast, whole grains/grasses (e.g.:  rice), or supplements.  Eating good bread is a convenient way of getting the B vitamins from whole grains – and although it is more expensive than sliced bread in a bag, it is a great deal cheaper than supplements.

5 thoughts on “Need vitamin B to ward off alzheimers? Eat virtuous bread.”

  1. B12 is only found in foods of animal origin such as eggs and fish. So strict vegetarian/vegan diets can be almost devoid of B12, even when eating good bread which I agree is an excellent way of getting the B vits from wholegrains + yeast.

    1. Hi there savvy cook! IN fact cannot veg and vegan diets be devoid of a lot of nutrients unless the veg or vegan in question has really studied the issue? B vits and protein spring to mind but also certain things that are found in dairy and enable good bacteria to flourish so that certain nutrients can even be absorbed…tricky if you are vegan. I don’t know the ins and outs (being a carnivore) but I guess veg and vegans need to be careful?

  2. Hello Savvy and virtuous. I’m sure this is too long but I just couldn’t let these two comments stand alone. Not only am I a nutritionist, I have also been a vegetarian for 36 years. Sandwiched in the middle of that time, I was also a vegan for 18 years. AND, in my early years of study, I actually took classes from Adelle in the late 1960s (dating myself, I know). I want you all to be aware that, health-wise, it’s absolutely not as difficult as some might think to choose either lifestyle. One doesn’t need any elaborate study of veg food science. Mostly, you need to know that you mustn’t feed yourself large quantities of junk food, as is in the typical Standard American Diet (SAD). If you want the best health and nutrition, you will consume healthy, whole foods. Carnivores are able to tolerate the SAD better and may be able to indulge in a great deal more funky eating habits and still survive, but may pay for it later with unwanted health problems. Presuming the rest of the diet is more than the “sensible” always referred by the medical community, if whole grains and whole grain breads are eaten, along with nuts and seeds, most B vitamins are not generally a problem for vegans and vegetarians. B12 specifically is another story because of its presence in animal foods (there are some fortified yeasts with measurable B12 as well as some controversy about some B12 existing in some seaweeds). By the way, a deficiency of B12, not the B-Complex in general, is the target vitamin that could be the culprit when a patient is presenting with memory loss and confusion. It may not be Alzheimer’s-type dementia. B12 levels should always be tested when dementia is suspected. But even flesh-eaters become deficient in B12. Vegetarians will get B12 from dairy products and eggs (if they eat eggs – some don’t). For vegans, vegan foods can be had (which are also suitable for vegetarians) that are fortified with B12. However, I believe the effectivity of B12 in oral use, either by fortified foods or by oral supplementation, is suspect because utilizing it when passing thru the digestive process requires “the intrinsic factor” to be present in order to assimilate the B12 orally. It is well known those with gastric disturbances (either from disease, gastric surgery or from aging) will have some difficulty assimilating B12, mainly because of their reduced hydrochloric acid. And the jury is still out as to whether today’s predilection for doctors to regularly write prescriptions (and for WAY too long) supplying strong Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) for “heartburn” and “acid reflux”, and, now, the unrestricted sale and use of over-the-counter PPIs (omeprazole – OTC Prilosec), will ultimately affect B12 levels negatively. And the jury ISN’T out on those PPIs contributing to bone loss, a major concern especially for women. As far as I’m concerned, the long-term use of such drugs is Russian Roulette. Short-term comfort use is okay but it’s better to focus on changing one’s stress levels as well as altering the diet. Well, meanwhile, how do we get some B12 insurance? Injection is expensive, generally requiring the fee of a doctor’s visit as well as the cost of the shot. Twin Labs, Swanson Vitamins and Trader Joe’s all have sub-lingual tablets available, which I recommend as the best option absent a tested and proven deficiency. Don’t even get me started about the B12/folate (folic acid) connection. Because folic acid is easier to get, occurring in green leafy vegetables as well as in other foods, and presence of folic acid can cover up the pernicious anemia of a B12 deficiency until irreparable damage has been done to the nervous system, instead of doing the “logical” thing of requiring the two to always be in a supplement together, our regulating boards have limited folic acid for decades (*sigh*). Regarding protein, many studies have shown that the less protein one eats protein, the more efficient is the utilization of that which is eaten. Conversely, the more protein that is consumed, the less efficiently the body utilizes it. As to the bread, whole grain is always the best choice and “sprouted” whole grain breads, also called flourless, are, in my opinion, an even better option especially for those with hypoglycemia, hyperinsulinemia (pre-diabetic) or with diabetes. BOTH breads contain equivalent amounts of the Bs (though NOT B12) but when grain is sprouted, it becomes more of a vegetable and significantly reduces the amount of carbohydrate in the finished product. White foods (sugar, wheat flour, rice, etc.) would be better left out of everyone’s diet. AND everyone, from vegan to carnivore, would be better with a daily insurance dose of good quality vitamin & mineral supplementation including B12. One last comment is that there are dairy free acidophilus and bifidus culture capsules that can be purchased and taken for “good bacteria” in the intestinal flora. Those and soy yogurt with live cultures make getting these important elements not “tricky”. Good health and fortune to one and all. Anyone is welcome to email me for further information. [email protected]

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