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Low Levels of Vitamin B12, Folate Increase Risk of Alzheimer's

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are found in some people with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other dementias. However, previous studies have not revealed a direct association between B12 levels and AD, and few studies overall have investigated the relationship between folate levels and AD or dementia.

The goal of this study was to determine whether low serum levels of vitamin B12 and folate are risk factors for AD and dementia. Three hundred and seventy nondemented subjects (75 years or older) were followed for three years to record incidents of AD. Clinical assessments were done initially and upon detection of dementia. Researchers analyzed data on subjects with high and low levels of both vitamin B12 and folate, as well as subjects with normal levels of one vitamin but not the other, to explore the combined effects of the two vitamins.

Results: Subjects with low levels of B12, folate or both had twice the risk of developing AD, compared to those with normal vitamin levels. This was even more likely in subjects with good initial cognition. No interaction was observed between the vitamins.

The authors wrote, "The fact that low levels of vitamin B12 or folate increase the risk of AD, especially in subjects with good cognition, was an unexpected result." They speculated that the reason for inconsistent results in prior studies involving supplementation is due to the deficiency having an effect only in the earliest phase of AD. To prevent the onset of AD, monitoring B12 and folate levels in the elderly may be necessary.

Wang HX, Wahlin A, Basun H, et al. Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer's disease. Neurology May 2001:56, pp. 1188-1194.


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Date Last Modified - Monday, 27-Jul-2009 09:13:53 PDT