Could Vitamin B Really Prevent Alzheimer's
17 Sep, 2011 - 11:11am
Recently the Daily Express reported in a front-page story that vitamin B can help protect the brain from dementia. “A daily 10p vitamin pill could prevent millions of people being struck down by Alzheimer’s disease,” the newspaper concluded. The report comes from a recent study that looked at whether high doses of vitamin B could help the elderly with memory problems.
At this week’s British Science Festival, scientists fervently discussed two sets of results from a recent study on high-dose vitamin B in elderly people with a condition termed mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, which can foreshadow Alzheimer’s disease. The research discovered that, in a small number of tests, subjects who took vitamin B showed improvements compared to those who took a placebo. A previous trial last September showed that people who took vitamin B had 30% less atrophy in the brain, compared to a placebo.
Although the results sound promising, there is no denying that this small, well-conducted study fails to prove definitively that vitamin B can prevent dementia. It does suggest, however, that high doses of vitamin D can help some people with MCI, which could develop into dementia. Certainly, a longer and more in-depth trial is required.
It is interesting, no doubt, to note that the high doses of vitamin D used in the trial can not be obtained from a normal diet or the usual fair of supplements. As the researchers warn us, high doses of any supplement could potentially be harmful to one’s health, and could increase the risk of other conditions, such as cancer. If you want to take a vitamin B supplement, and plan on dosing above the recommended daily allowance (RDA), you should consult your general practitioner before proceeding.
This study comes from the University of Oxford and the University of Oslo, Norway. Funding was provided by a plethora of UK organizations, including the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, the Medical Research Council, and the Alzheimer’s Research Trust. The results were published in two different papers; the first appeared in the journal PLoS One discussed brain shrinkage, the second in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry in July 2011. Currently, the data is being presented at the British Science Festival.
It is apt to conclude that the researchers “found that high-dose B vitamins appeared to have benefit in a number of mental tests for some people with MCI. However, as the researchers point out, the study had some limitations, including the relatively small size of the trial and also the relatively modest size of the effect (the cognitive improvements seen). Also, the study was not set up primarily to assess the possible effect of vitamin B on cognitive function, as the first part of this study looked at brain atrophy.
“While this study has presented intriguing results, a larger trial is now needed to assess whether high doses of vitamin B could slow down progression to dementia.”