Could Vitamin B stave off dementia?

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A brand new study has found that vitamin B could significantly slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating form of dementia.

The researchers from the Oxford University Project to investigate Memory and Aging discovered that taking high doses of B vitamins could half the rate of brain shrinkage in people who are showing early signs of the disease.

In a healthy person, the average rate at which the brain shrinks is around 0.5 percent a year from the age of 60 and beyond but in Alzheimer’s patients, the brain shrinks at a rate of around 2.5 percent a year.

The study involved 168 elderly people who were experiencing mild cognitive impairment, a condition which can be an early warning sign of dementia.

Half of the participants were given a daily dose of vitamin B6, B12 and folate at dosages which were much higher than the recommended daily amounts and the other half were given a placebo.

After a period of two years of taking the vitamins, those who had been taking the B vitamins showed an average of a 30 percent slower rate of brain shrinkage than those who had been taking the placebo and in some cases it was more than 50 percent slower putting the shrinkage rate on about the same level as those who do not have mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers believe that the positive effect of the vitamin B was down to how it controls a substance known as homocysteine, high levels of which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and faster brain shrinkage.

However, it isn’t a good idea to start taking high doses of B vitamins, or indeed any other vitamins without medical supervision.

The BBC reports Chris Kennard, chair of the Medical Research Council’s Neurosciences and Mental Health Board, as saying:

“We must be cautious when recommending supplements like vitamin B as there are separate health risks if taken in too high doses.

“Further research is required before we can recommend the supplement as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.”

Professor David Smith, who was the lead author of the study, said that the results were more significant than what anyone could have predicted but that more research was required to see whether high doses of B Vitamins could actually prevent Alzheimer’s disease from developing in people with mild cognitive impairment.

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