Preventing Age-Related Mental Decline By Consuming Vitamin B
With the rising costs of healthcare, a new study shows that dietary measures may be a cheap and effective way of warding off health conditions that typically affect the elderly, such as Alzheimer's and heart disease.
Research in the past has indicated that higher levels of homocysteine, a amino acid known to be a marker of cardiovascular disease risk, are linked to lower cognitive test scores. Since taking folate supplements has been shown to help reduce homocysteine levels, hence researchers feel that this might be the reason behind folate's beneficial effects.
A recent study done, involved 321 men aged between 50 and 85 years. Their cognitive function was assessed through a Mini-Mental State Examination and on the basis of measures of memory, verbal fluency, and constructional praxis at the start of the study and after three years. Their diets were also assessed at baseline using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood samples were taken to assess serum homocysteine and B vitamins levels.
At the end of the follow-up period, it was seen that there was a significant association between decline in spatial copying ability (a measure of constructional praxis) and plasma levels of homocysteine, folate, and vitamins B-6 and B-12, as well as dietary intake of each of the vitamins. However, the effects of folate on cognitive function were seen to be independent of its impact on homocysteine: dietary folate seemed to protect against a decline in verbal fluency and a decline in spatial copying, whereas high homocysteine concentration appeared to be linked to recall memory decline.
In conclusion researchers say that the new study is important since it looks at the effects of the nutrients over time, rather than just at one given moment.