12 January - 20 June 2016

B vitamins may benefit those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

22 May 13

A study, cited in the popular press, by Smith et al. and published in PNAS is reporting that those at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (AD) may be able to slow its onset through daily B vitamins.  Previous cross-sectional and prospective studies have indicated that increased levels of plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) are associated with cognitive impairment, AD, or vascular dementia; however trials using B vitamin supplements have shown inconsistent results. Factors such as vitamin combination, dosage, duration and levels of baseline tHcy may be responsible for some of these inconsistencies. Previous research by Smith et al involving the same participants as in the current study found that “B vitamin treatment slowed the shrinkage of the whole bran over 2 y and that there was an interaction between treatment and tHcy at baseline.”    High amounts of B vitamins (folic acid 0.8 mg, vitamin B6 20 mg, vitamin B12 0.5 mg) were found to slow whole-brain shrinkage by up to 53%, in patients with above average tHcy levels.  In this current study Smith et al investigated the regions of the brain which are protected by B vitamins.  The study used data from a randomised control trial which assessed the effect of B-vitamin treatment on 156 elderly volunteers with mild cognitive impairment over a period of 24 months.   Of the participants, 76 received a placebo, whilst 80 received B vitamins.  Grey matter volume was assessed at baseline and at the end of the intervention period. The MRI scans of the participants showed no differences in baseline grey matter volume.  However although both groups had lost grey matter during the 2 years, those in the vitamin B treatment group, had reduced GM atrophy in regions particularly susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease, including the hippocampus and cerebellum.   For those with high tHcy the atrophy rate in these brain regions was 5.2 per cent in the placebo group but only 0.6 per cent in the vitamin group.  Simon Ridley at Alzheimer's Research UK cautions that more work is needed to explore the link. He is quoted by the popular press as saying "It's important to note the effects in this trial were only seen in a subgroup of people with MCI," he says. "We must also remember that only a proportion of people with MCI will go on to develop Alzheimer's, and it's not yet clear why this is the case."

RSSL's Functional Ingredients Laboratory provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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