Alzheimer's disease (AD)
constitutes the most common form of dementia. In the majority of patients the
disease is diagnosed after the age of 65 years.
The early onset variety
of the disease is seen in some individuals but it is very rare. The most common
symptom of AD is the inability to recall recent events. Cognitive tests and
brain scan help in the diagnosis of this dreaded disease, which is
progressively degenerative and incurable.
people allover the world
suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Huge amount of time and money went into AD
research but drug trials have, thus far, proved to be unsuccessful.
to a recent research a tablet containing high doses of vitamin
and folic acid reduced memory decline
in the elderly by 70
per cent and curtailed brain shrinkage by upto fifty percent. Incidentally,
brain shrinkage often leads to memory loss and full blown Alzheimer's disease.
So, why does the brain 'shrink' in
the first place? It is because of the amino acid called homocysteine that is
synthesized by the body. Homocysteine
is a compound which is produced by the body naturally. It reaches higher levels
in the bloodstream as a person ages and tends to damage blood vessel linings,
leading to brain shrinkage and increasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease,
stroke and heart disease.
In a recent study published in the
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the researchers reported the
effect of B-vitamins on cognitive and clinical decline in patients with mild
cognitive decline (MCI) They
recruited 270 people of the age of 70 years and above, who suffered mild
(MCI) or memory lapses. Half of the subjects were
given tablets with extremely high doses of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid,
which have the ability to reduce blood homocysteine levels. The other half of
the subjects were given a placebo.
part of the study, patients were given a simple verbal memory task
wherein they learnt a list of 12 words and recalled them 20 minutes later.
After the first year, patients with the highest levels of homocysteine who took
the vitamin pill, were 70 per cent more likely to give a correct answer in
comparison to those who were administered placebo. As for those with low
homocysteine levels, it mattered very little which pill they took, indicating
that normal levels of the compound did not impact the brain.
on patients who
took the vitamin pills showed that the pills reduced shrinkage
by 30 per
cent on average, rising to 50 per cent in those with higher homocysteine
Celeste de Jager of Oxford University, who lead the current research, observed
that the current study had "definitively" shown that vitamins did
help to prevent mental decline. Speaking at the British Science Festival, Dr.
Jager said, "A lot of the time brain changes start in your forties and
fifties before you get clinical symptoms.I would think that in middle age
people should start thinking about their vitamin levels."
the positive impact of vitamins, it is not advisable
to take vitamins
without consulting one's doctor as it could have some deleterious effect or
would affect other conditions such as cancer. When questioned whether she would
consider consuming vitamins as a precaution, Dr de Jager remarked: "I
would ask the doctor to check my B12 and my folic acid levels for starters. I
take supplements when I'm feeling a bit low, I don't take one every day but I
would certainly have multi-vitamins and B vitamins in my cupboard."
need more research to show that we can actually delay the decline to
dementia," continued Dr de Jager.
An Alzheimer's Society spokesperson
commented: "We all know it's important to get enough vitamins. However,
people shouldn't rush out and empty the shelves of vitamin B tablets. More research is needed to establish whether
it has benefits for people without existing memory problems, and if it could
Earlier studies have confirmed that Vitamin E and
C impact cognitive function in the elderly.It may be a futuristic idea to test middle aged individuals for vitamin B
levels and alter their diets, if required. This appearsto be a simple way of
warding off one of the most pathetic condition plaguing mankind.
de Jager CA, Oulhaj A, Jacoby R, Refsum H,
Smith AD. Cognitive and clinical outcomes of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamin
treatment in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Int J
Geriatr Psychiatry. 2011 Jul 21. doi: 10.1002/gps.2758.