Daily supplements of B vitamins in older adults may slow the decline of mental function reports a new study conducted by the University of Oxford and the University of Oslo.
The researchers found that a daily combination of folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12 was associated with a 30% reduction in levels of the amino acid homocysteine, and supported improvements in a range of mental tests, including global cognition and episodic memory.
Their study suggests that lowering homocysteine concentrations by supplementing B vitamins supports brain structure and function, which in turn supports cognitive ability, wrote the researchers.
One important factor effecting cognitive function appears to be raised concentrations of the amino acid homocysteine. Tissue and plasma concentrations of homocysteine are known to be determined by vitamin B status, as they are essential for enzymes involved in homocysteine metabolism. The new study investigated the links between vitamin B supplementation, homocysteine levels, and cognitive function.
The study involved 266 people over the age of 70. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either placebo or a B vitamin supplement providing 0.8 mg per day of folic acid, 0.5 mg of vitamin B12 and 20 mg of vitamin B6 for two years.
At the end of the study the researchers report that homocysteine levels decreased by an average of 30% in the B vitamin group, compared with placebo.
In addition, executive mental function was stable in the B vitamin group, compared with placebo.
When the scientists looked specifically at people with high homocysteine levels (greater than 11.3 micromoles per liter) they found that B supplementation was associated with significant improvements in overall cognition, episodic memory (memory of past events), and semantic memory (understanding or remembering the meaning of words or things).
The effect of B-vitamin supplementation was most effective for episodic memory. Participants in the B vitamin group had a 69% higher likelihood of correct word recall compared with placebo. The same pattern was also observed for the global cognition and semantic memory tests.
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