Taking vitamin B could significantly slow the onset of age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s, a study has suggested.
In large daily doses, B vitamins were shown to cut the rate of brain shrinkage by more than 50% in some elderly people with mild cognitive impairment, an early form of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Brain atrophy, which is a natural part of ageing, is known to occur quicker in people with MCI who later develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers at Oxford University, assisted by colleagues in Norway, said they now think the vitamin treatment could delay or even prevent development of the disease if use early enough. They are trying to secure funding to put this theory to the test.
The research by the the British-led team, published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, is controversial because it defies current scientific thinking about the way to tackle Alzheimer’s.
It suggests simply taking vitamins can achieve results that have so far evaded pharmaceutical companies, despite millions of pounds being spent on experimental dementia drugs.
The researchers used an advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to study brain shrinkage in 168 volunteers over the age of 70 with diagnosed MCI.
Over a period of two years, half were given a daily tablet containing high doses of the B vitamins folate, B6 and B12. The rest received a “dummy” placebo pill with no active ingredients.
At the end of the trial the effects of the vitamin treatment were found to be dramatic and most pronounced in participants who started out with the highest rates of brain shrinkage.
On average, taking B vitamins slowed the rate of brain atrophy by 30%, and in some cases reductions as high as 53% were seen.