Taking vitamin B12 or folic acid supplements may not reduce seniors’ risk of memory loss, according to a new study.
Past research hinted that taking vitamin B12 and folic acid might help protect memory and thinking skills, according to background information from the study. But follow-up trials have yielded less convincing findings.
The current study included nearly 3,000 people with an average age of 74. Half took a tablet daily with 500mcg of vitamin B12 and 400mcg of folic acid daily for two years. The rest took a placebo. All participants had high levels of homocysteine, which has been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Memory and thinking skills tests were given at the start and end of the study. Results of the study were published in the November 12 issue of Neurology.
“Since homocysteine levels can be lowered with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements, the hope has been that taking these vitamins could also reduce the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease,” Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.
Dhonukshe-Rutten and her colleagues found that people taking the vitamin B12-folic acid supplements had larger decreases in homocysteine levels than those taking the placebo. Despite the decrease, there was no difference between the two groups on the thinking and memory tests.
Homocysteine is and intermediate product of sulfur amino acid metabolism. This is the chemical pathway the body uses to strip sulfur from sulfur bearing amino acids. The free sulfur is then used for phase II liver detoxification, Candida eradication, and repair of connective tissue (muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, and cartilage). Folic acid and vitamin B12 act as enzymes to convert the homocysteine.
However, the process is also very dependent on vitamin B6. A deficiency of any of these B vitamins will allow homocysteine to build in the blood stream where it stimulates plaque formation in the artery walls. Increased arterial plaque is associated with heart disease, dementia and PAD (peripheral artery disease).
All three of these B vitamins have to be converted into their bioavailable forms before the body can use them. Genetic impairment of this conversion process is very common. I see it in my office every day. Please review my blogs “Folic Acid” posted on March 5, 2014 and “Vitamin B6” posted on March 12, 2014 for further information. Unfortunately, the study did not test for these genetic issues and the unconverted forms were used.
Finally, I believe an average age of 74 is too old for this study. By then, the atherosclerotic changes have already occurred. Reducing the homocysteine may slow or prevent further changes, but it will not improve circulation to the brain resulting in improved memory.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
It is encouraging that studies are being performed on various nutrients. However, this particular study was not well designed. I continue to supplement folic acid and B12, often with B6 for a large percentage of my patient population.
Source: National Institutes of Health -Wednesday, November 12. 2014