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Vitamins slow Altzheimers

March 18, 2012

Vitamins slow Altzheimers. Limited study gives much hope.

Capsules in Pharmaceutical Pill Tray --- Image by © Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

Every now and then I stumble into doing something right. All three of these are favorites of mine and have been for years.

So any extra decline of cognition may be solely due to other habits, many of which, both past and current, have an unhealthy nature.

I am the founding director of the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), which studies the causes of dementia. Last year  we recruited 270 elderly people with memory problems and gave them Vitamin B tablets – folic acid (800 micrograms), B12 (500 micrograms) and B6 (20 milligrams).The supplements, which cost as little as 10p a day, were found to slow shrinkage of the brain by an average of 30 per cent a year – and slow the rate of cognitive decline – in people with high blood levels of homocysteine. Raised levels of this amino acid can increase the risk of developing AD three or four-fold.

By regulating homocysteine with  B vitamins, we showed for the first time it is possible to slow the progress of the disease, if you start early. More trials are needed to test whether  continued treatment can delay its progress indefinitely, but B vitamins have been shown to be as good clinically as Aricept – and better in that they slow the disease progression rather than ease the symptoms.There is no way of knowing who  is predisposed to AD, apart from extremely rare familial forms of AD.But those with memory problems should have their homocysteine measured and be started on B vitamins, under medical guidance.

Normal  dietary intake isn’t enough. One (200ml) glass of semi-skimmed milk contains 2.5 micrograms of B12, and most manage to eat five micrograms a day. But we do know people with high Vitamin B intakes are less likely to develop dementia, so every little helps. Large-scale studies are needed to see if nutrition and exercise can slow the conversion of memory impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. We also need to know if they improve the response to drugs such as donepezil. http://bit.ly/zVXOKO

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