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Study to test if vitamin B could stave off dementia

Study to test if vitamin B could stave off dementia

If higher levels of homocysteine are connected to age-related brain shrinkage, and vitamin B supplementation reduces homocysteine, can supplementation with B vitamins reduce cognitive decline in the elderly?

Researchers from England’s Oxford University are to run a large-scale study in a bid to confirm whether supplementation with B vitamins can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

In the two-year trial, which is to involve about 1,000 older people in the UK, participants will be given measured doses of vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid and observed to establish whether taking these nutrients makes them less likely to suffer from the effects of cognitive decline. The trial will employ a ‘dementia scale’ to generate a score for the subjects’ cognition levels.

The new study will be conducted by the same research team that, a year ago, concluded a small but promising trial involving 266 people aged 70 and over. The results of this study suggested B vitamins helped prevent brain atrophy, or shrinkage, caused by ageing to the tune of 30 percent.

The researchers linked the positive results to a protein molecule, homocysteine, which is found in the blood. Homocysteine levels increase when B vitamins are deficient, and people with greater homocysteine levels tend to experience more brain shrinkage in old age.

Now the researchers want to go a step further and find out whether reducing homocysteine levels through supplementation with vitamin B is an effective way to prevent dementia. Dr Celeste de Jager, who will lead the study at Oxford University, told the Press Association: “The cognitive and clinical outcomes will be the main outcomes rather than the brain atrophy.”

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