5 Best Supplements for White Matter Disease

supplements for white matter disease next to brain graphic

If you’ve never heard of white matter disease before, it may be time to learn more about this degenerative condition.

 

White matter disease can affect anyone. It can cause neurological changes that can impact your brain, your body, and your life.

 

Through nutrition and lifestyle, you can take steps now to lower your risk of developing white matter disease.

 

In this article, I’ll share a few of the best supplements for white matter disease. But first, let’s take a brief look at the risk factors and symptoms of this unfamiliar disease.

 

What is white matter disease?

Your brain is made up of white matter and gray matter. Both serve different roles, with white matter being the home of nerve fibers that send information throughout your entire body. A healthy brain has more white matter than gray matter.1

 

When white matter becomes damaged, the result can be white matter disease. This damage can have many causes, like reduced blood flow to the brain.

 

White matter disease, also known as leukoaraiosis or white matter hyperintensities, is diagnosed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and will look like lesions or abnormalities.2 Typically, more lesions on the brain’s white matter means increased disease severity.

 

White matter damage can result in issues with memory, cognition, balance, and mobility. And if white matter disease becomes too severe, dementia can develop.3

 

Risk factors for white matter disease

White matter disease is quite common, with a prevalence of 21% in people over the age of 64 and 94% in people over the age of 84.4 It affects the worldwide population, including people of Japanese, Caucasian, African-American, Caribbean black, and Chinese descent.5

 

Knowing the risk factors for white matter disease may help you decrease your chance of developing it. White matter disease risk factors include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Advanced age
  • Smoking cigarettes1

 

Genetics can also play a role in the development of white matter disease. But while genetics are an unavoidable risk factor, other risk factors for white matter disease may be preventable through an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.

 

Symptoms of white matter disease

woman helping senior man stand up

Once white matter disease develops, a range of symptoms can occur. However, in mild cases, it is possible to have the disease without any symptoms at all.

 

Common white matter disease symptoms include:

  • Trouble with balance
  • Frequent falls
  • Inability to do more than one thing at a time (for example, walking and talking)
  • Depressed mood or mood changes
  • Slow walking
  • Urinary incontinence1

 

White matter disease can range from mild to severe, and having it increases your risk of other health conditions including stroke, depression, disability, and cognitive decline. Because of this, it’s important to do your best to prevent or treat the disease.

 

Can supplements help with white matter disease?

Some research suggests certain dietary supplements that may be beneficial to people with the disease. However, supplements can’t cure white matter disease, and they shouldn’t be used as a sole treatment.

 

Below is a look at the 5 most promising supplements for white matter disease.

 

1. Vitamin B12

Taking vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is often associated with increased energy. However, B12 has many other functions, including protecting the brain.

 

A vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to more white matter lesions in the brain. In one study looking at this relationship, participants who were deficient in B12 had higher rates of white matter disease progression.6

 

We are still waiting for research on how supplementing with vitamin B12 would directly affect white matter disease. Until then, we can learn from the research we do have and see that sufficient intake of vitamin B12 helps the brain continue to function as it should.

 

2. Vitamin D

vitamin d pills on white background

Many studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D may be a beneficial treatment for white matter disease.

 

In one recent study, researchers looked at the relationship between levels of vitamin D and cognition in older adults with white matter lesions. What the researchers found was that participants with decreased levels of serum vitamin D also had lower levels of cognitive function compared to those who had normal levels of serum vitamin D.7

 

This means that supplementing with vitamin D may help people with white matter disease hang on to their cognitive function, especially if a deficiency is present.

 

3. Folate

Folate, or vitamin B9, is another nutrient that is essential to your overall health, including the health of your brain. In fact, folate is vital from day one as expecting mothers need plenty of it for the proper brain development of their growing fetus.

 

Folate has been linked to slower rates of brain atrophy, as well as better integrity of white matter.8 And, similar to vitamin D, higher levels of folate have been associated with better cognition.9

 

 

Learn how ZYTO can help you choose the best supplements based on the body’s unique energetic responses.

 

It should be noted, though, that research regarding the relationship between folate and white matter disease has been mixed. Because of this, it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider about the potential benefits of taking folate (or any other supplement) for white matter disease.

 

4. L-Serine

white l-serine pills on yellow background

Serine is an amino acid that comes in two forms, D-serine and L-serine. The L version has been suggested as a possible treatment for white matter disease and general cognitive decline.

 

In mice, L-serine was found to protect nerve cells found in the brain’s white matter. And in lab studies, L-serine has shown an ability to reduce both inflammation and the degree of white matter damage.10

 

5 – Choline

An essential nutrient throughout the lifecycle, choline may be able to improve brain health soon after birth. It is an important part of the structure and signaling of neurons in the brain.

 

Choline has been linked to better memory as well as reduced white matter lesions.11 However, researchers are unsure exactly how choline works to protect the brain.

 

When to see a doctor & treatment options

In addition to these supplements, lifestyle changes such as physical exercise and following a Mediterranean diet have the potential to help prevent white matter disease as well as ease symptoms.12 13 However, you should visit a doctor if you frequently experience symptoms such as memory loss, loss of balance, and a depressed mood.

 

If an MRI shows that white matter lesions are present in the brain, your healthcare provider will prescribe a treatment plan based on the severity of your disease and your symptoms. For example, if you have trouble with your balance, then physical therapy may be helpful. A physical therapist could also assist with slow walking and gait issues.

 

If you suffer from depression or mood changes because of white matter disease, then you may choose to go to therapy. For many, talking with a trained mental health professional about mood changes, anxiety, and other mental health issues is beneficial. And for some, medications like antidepressants are a necessary part of symptom management.

 

In addition to treating symptoms, it’s important to work toward preventing white matter disease from progressing.

 

Managing health issues that may have caused your white matter disease is imperative. This could look like quitting smoking, controlling your blood sugar if you have type 2 diabetes, or making lifestyle changes to manage heart disease.

 

Again, there is no cure for white matter disease, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat it. Sometimes, a white matter disease diagnosis may be the perfect excuse to start taking better care of yourself.

 

 

 

About Brittany Lubeck
Brittany Lubeck is a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. She has a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition, and began her career as a clinical dietitian. Brittany has always enjoyed research and loves that she can help people learn more about nutrition through her writing.

 

 

 

Sources:

1. Sharma, R., S. Sekhon, & M. Cascella. White Matter Lesions (Treasure Island, FL: Stat Pearls Publishing, 2022).

2. Chutinet, A., & N.S. Rost. “White matter disease as a biomarker for long-term cerebrovascular disease and dementia.” Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine 16, no. 292 (2014).

3. Filley, C.M. “White matter dementia.” Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders 5, no. 5 (2012): 267-277.

4. Smith, E.E, G. Saposnik, et al. “Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Silent Cerebrovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement for Healthcare Professional From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.” Stroke 2, no. 48 (2017): e44-e71.

5. Zuang, F.J., Y. Chen, et al. “Prevalence of white matter hyperintensities increase with age.” Neural Regeneration Research 12, no. 13 (2018): 2141-2146.

8. van Overbeek, E.C., J. Staals, & R.J. van Oostenbrugge. “Vitamin B12 and Progression of White Matter Lesions. A 2-Year-Follow-Up Study in First-Ever Lacunar Stroke Patients.” Plos One 10, no. 8 (2013): e78100.

9. Wang, L., X.M. Zhao, et al. “Association between Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Level and Cognitive Impairment in Patients with White Matter Lesions: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Medical Principles and Practice 5, no. 29 (2020): 451-457.

10. Beydoun, M.A., D. Shaked, et al. “Vitamin D, Folate, and Cobalamin Serum Concentrations Are Related to Brain Volume and White Matter Integrity in Urban Adults.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 13 (2021): 660049.

11. McGarel, C., K. Pentieva, et al. “Emerging roles for folate and related B-vitamins in brain health across the lifecycle.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 1, no. 74 (2015): 46-55.

12. Ye, L., Y. Sun, et al. “L-Serine, an Endogenous Amino Acid, Is a Potential Neuroprotective Agent for Neurological Disease and Injury.” Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 14 (2021): 726665.

13. Poly, C., J.M. Massaro, et al. “The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 6, no. 94 (2011): 1584-1591.

6. Torres, E.R, E.F. Strack, et al. “Physical activity and white matter hyperintensities: A systemic review of quantitative studies.” Preventive Medicine Reports, no 2. (2015): 319-325.

7. Rodrigues, B., A. Coelho, et al. “Higher Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet Is Associated With Preserved White Matter Integrity and Altered Structural Connectivity.” Frontiers in Neuroscience 14 (2020): 786.

 

The information provided in this article is intended to improve, not replace, the direct relationship between the client (or site visitor) and healthcare professionals.

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