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Low Levels of Vitamin B12, Folic Acid Increase Risk of Alzheimer's

Vitamin B12 deficiencies have been discovered in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and low levels of folic acid are linked to intellectual deterioration.

B12 and folic acid aid in cell formation and prevent nerve damage. Is there a direct association between B12/folic acid levels and Alzheimer’s?

A study appearing in the May issue of Neurology sought to determine whether low B12 and folic acid (or folate) levels are risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Three hundred and seventy subjects (75 years or older) were observed for three years to record the number of cases of Alzheimer’s that developed. Researchers analyzed data on subjects with high and low levels of both 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.

Subjects with low levels of B12, folate or both had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, compared to those with normal vitamin levels. This was even more likely in subjects with good initial cognition. The authors of the study speculate that vitamin deficiency may have an increased effect in the earliest phases of Alzheimer’s.

Tips to help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s:

  • Eat plenty of raw spinach, peas, beans, brown rice and other vegetables that are rich in folic acid;

  • Remember that folic acid is destroyed when cooked, so eat these vegetables raw; and

  • Eat foods rich in B12, such as beef, fish, milk and eggs. If you are a vegetarian, you will have more difficulty getting enough B12, which is found almost exclusively in animal tissues, but can obtain it from brewer’s yeast or supplements.

Reference: 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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