[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 2 Issue 3, October 2011].
Some newspapers have reported that vitamin B might help protect the brain from dementia. Recent research investigated whether high doses of vitamin B could help elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
MCI is often an early symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease. MCI affects 5 million people in the US and 14 million in Europe. Half of those with MCI go on to develop dementia within five years.
The researchers found that people with MCI taking vitamin B showed improvements on various neuropsychological tests (of orientation, memory, language, verbal learning and the CLOX test which measures ability to plan and execute tasks) when compared with individuals taking a placebo. Earlier related research, published in September 2010, indicated that people taking vitamin B had 30% less brain atrophy (brain shrinkage) than those taking a placebo.
Note: This small study implies that high doses of vitamin B may help some people with MCI, bit it does not prove that vitamin B can prevent Alzheimer’s dementia. A larger, long-term trial would be required to investigate the potential for vitamin B to slow the progression of dementia.
Caution: High doses of vitamin B may be harmful and could increase the risk of cancer. Individuals should consult their GP before considering taking vitamin B supplements above the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
Can vitamin B prevent Alzheimer’s?. London: NHS Choices, September 14th 2011.
David Smith A, Smith SM, de Jager CA et al. Homocysteine-lowering by B vitamins slows the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One September 2010, 5(9), e12244.