UK researchers have found that high doses of B-vitamins – including folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 – can slow down brain tissue atrophy, a wasting process associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
David Smith of the University of Oxford, and colleagues, used randomised controlled trials to test the long-term effects of B-vitamins on the brain health of elderly people with mild cognitive impairment, who were classed as having an increased risk of dementia. They found the brains of those treated with B-vitamins shrank less over a two year period than those given a placebo, and experienced less atrophy in regions of grey matter especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.
They also showed that the supplements effectively reduced blood concentrations of homocysteine, high levels of which have been linked to Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment.
The work suggests addressing non-genetic aspects of Alzheimer’s may identify better treatment options. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, with over 25 million sufferers worldwide. Several potential treatments have failed in recent clinical trials.