The results of a new study from the Institute of Psychiatry in London and Chonnam
National University Hospital Medical School show that both Folic Acid and Vitamin
B12 are needed for brain health. In fact, lacking Folic Acid can increase your
risk of developing dementia by an astounding 350%. The researchers followed
518 people, average age of 73, for 2.4 years. All participants were free of
dementia at the start of the study. At the end of the 2.4 year study, 45 people
had developed dementia (34 with Alzheimer’s disease, 7 with vascular dementia,
and 4 with other types of dementia). If folic acid levels fell over the study
period and conversely, the level of homocysteine rose, you were significantly
more likely to develop dementia. The level of Folic Acid was connected to the
level of Vitamin B12. Homocysteine is an intermediary in protein metabolism
that rises if you are low in the B-complex vitamin Folic Acid, and elevated
homocysteine causes inflammation in the brain, blood vessels, and in other tissues.
The study is published online ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology,
Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.
A low level of Vitamin B12 and also Folic Acid tied to a quicker rate
of cognitive decline and having sufficient B12 slows this decline
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the risk of mental decline in relation
to levels of B12 or Folic Acid. In their study, researchers from Oxford University
in the UK and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, investigated the level of
homocysteine and other markers of vitamin status at 3 junctures over a 10-year
period and compared them to levels of Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid while also
giving the study subjects a test to evaluate mental status in a total of 1,648
participants. Brain function declined abruptly at younger ages in some participants
but remained intact in others until very old age. The scientists looked at levels
of holotranscobalamin in the subjects; this level increases as Vitamin B12 status
improves. They also looked at the levels of homocysteine (this increases as
levels of both folic acid and B12 decrease) and methylmalonic acid (this increases
with a decrease in the body's B12 reserve). Having a lowered level of holotranscobalamin
and elevated levels of both homocysteine and methylmalonic acid predicted a
decline in cognitive function. If the level of holotranscobalamin, a sensitive
marker of sufficient B12, doubled, this indicated a 30% slower rate of cognitive
decline. A doubling of homocysteine or methylmalonic acid was disastrous, indicating
a 50% or greater respectively more rapid cognitive decline; all of this indicates
that it is a lower level of Vitamin B12 that is more important for the loss
of mental function with aging. The message is to get adequate B12 and also Folic
Acid to protect your mental function. The study is published in the November
2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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