Low levels of Folic Acid and B12 increase your risk of developing dementia

February 14, 2008

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.