Your daily dose of vitamin may not actually be the magic pill that you are looking for but it can be highly effective in slowing the onset of dementia and in guarding against the dreaded Alzheimer's disease.
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.
AdvertisementMany 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.
According to a recent research a tablet containing high doses of vitamin B 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 cognitive impairment (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.
As 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.
Brain scans 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 levels.
Dr 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."
Despite 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."
"We 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 prevent dementia."
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.
Source: 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.