Press Release: The Role of B Vitamins in Post-Stroke Recovery

Author: Syed Haider

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Brain ischemia, more commonly known as a stroke, occurs when blood stops flowing to the brain. This stoppage results in the death of brain cells. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roughly 15 million people suffer a stroke each year, making stroke the second most common cause of death. Although methods are available for stroke prevention, current research has largely focused on post-stroke recovery due to the rising incidence. Drugs and – in severe cases – surgery are currently used for the recovery of lost brain cells following a stroke. However, B vitamin-enriched diets have recently gained interest in stroke treatment, as studies have shown them to decrease risk of stroke. In light of this trend, Prerana Keerthi’s paper, “B-Vitamin and Choline Supplementation Changes the Ischemic Brain ” published in the April 2019 issue of the Journal of Young Investigators, studied the effect of a diet enriched in B vitamins on post-stroke recovery.

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The experimental diet, consisting of folic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and choline, was administered to mice after artificially inducing a stroke. Researchers assessed neuroplasticity, an important component underlying stroke recovery refers to the way our brains adapt to changes over time, by measuring levels of a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Multiple studies have implicated BDNF in cell survival and anti-inflammation, suggesting that it may play a role in reducing damage after a stroke. Keerthi’s study found that the B vitamin-enriched experimental diet resulted in an increase in BDNF compared to the control diet. These results suggest that a B vitamin-rich diet can induce post-stroke recovery of neurons through expression of BDNF.

This finding provides important insight into how the brain recovers after a stroke and how a simple diet may be able to accelerate the process. However, questions remain regarding the mechanism through which this diet induces BDNF expression. Keerthi’s research indicates that the mechanism behind BDNF’s increase in response to a B vitamin-enriched diet is dependent on protein kinase A (PKA), a major cellular regulator that controls a wide range of responses, including neuroplasticity.

Understanding the mechanism of B vitamin-induced post-stroke recovery may allow for the development of effective treatment strategies to produce a stronger and better controlled response for rapid recovery. Future research should thus focus on the elucidation of such underlying mechanisms, as well as the translatability of these results to humans to understand whether B vitamins can supplement existing treatment strategies.

Keerthi’s findings illustrate the potential of B vitamins in facilitating recovery after stroke. Current interventions for recovery focus on drugs and surgery, which may not be available to many individuals around the world. Thus, a B vitamin diet may not only supplement current treatment strategies, but also help many people who do not have access to current standards of post-stroke treatment.