Folic Acid Might Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

By Maureen Williams, ND

Healthnotes Newswire (January 25, 2007)—Folic acid—a B vitamin found in leafy greens, fortified grains, and multivitamins—has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, and some cancers, but can it also protect against Alzheimer’s disease? A new study suggests it can.

Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia that affects mostly elderly people, causing a significant decline in mental functioning and lapses in memory, especially short-term memory.

The new study from Columbia University, published in the Archives of Neurology, interviewed 965 seniors about their health, lifestyle, and diet, and tested them on physical and neurological function. Participants were then monitored for signs of dementia for several years. After an average of six years, the people with the highest total intake of folic acid had the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, and those with the lowest intake had the highest incidence.

The effects of Alzheimer’s disease on afflicted people and their families can be devastating. Most people with Alzheimer’s disease eventually require round-the-clock care. Although genetic factors play a major role in causing the disease, there is some evidence that there are other, more controllable, influences. In addition to getting plenty of folic acid, exercise has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia; smoking, on the other hand, can increase risk.

Based on the study’s findings and those from previous research, people who want to minimize their Alzheimer’s disease risk would be wise to consider taking a multivitamin containing folic acid and to eat more folic acid–rich foods, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, dark green lettuce, beans, wheat germ, and fortified cereal grains.

“Because there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease, all methods for prevention are important to study, and positive findings such as these should be shared with people who are concerned about this disease,” commented Dr. Bernat, a neurologist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. “Methods such as quitting smoking, exercising, and increasing folic acid intake are inexpensive and safe, and have other benefits for healthy aging,” he added.

(Arch Neurol 2007;64:86–92)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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