MONDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- People who eat a diet rich
in vitamin B12 may be protecting themselves from Alzheimer's
disease, a small, preliminary study suggests.
The findings add to the debate about whether vitamins can reduce
the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. While this new study
appears to support the role of vitamins, other studies have yielded
mixed results, the researchers said.
"Previous studies have reported that vitamin B12 deficiency is a common condition in the elderly," said lead researcher Dr. Babak Hooshmand, a research assistant with the Aging Research Center at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
"Our results indicate that vitamin B12 and related metabolites may have a role in Alzheimer's disease, but more research is needed before we can get conclusions on the role of vitamin B12 supplements on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease," he added.
The report is published in the Oct. 19 issue of
For the study, Hooshmand's group looked at homocysteine levels
in the blood of 271 Finns 65 to 79 who did not have dementia at the
beginning of the study.
The team looked at homocysteine because high levels of this
protein have been linked to stroke. The researchers also looked at
levels of holotranscobalamin, which is the active protein of
vitamin B12 and lowers blood levels of homocysteine, the
During seven years of follow-up, 17 people developed
Alzheimer's. The researchers found that for each small increase of
homocysteine, called a micromolar, the risk of Alzheimer's disease
rose 16 percent. However, with each small increase in vitamin B12,
called a picomolar, the risk of Alzheimer's dropped 2 percent.
The results remained constant after the researchers compensated
for other factors, such as age, sex, education, smoking, blood
pressure and weight.
Vitamin B12 is found in eggs, fish, poultry and other meats. A
balanced diet -- not supplements -- is the best way to get the
vitamin B12 you need, Hooshmand said.
Alzheimer's expert Greg M. Cole, a professor of medicine and
neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said "this
new study is too small to say that it adds a lot to the association
of Alzheimer's disease and dementia with high homocysteine."
"But it is interesting that higher B12 appears protective given the recently published report that B vitamin supplements appeared to reduce brain shrinkage," he said.
William Thies, chief medical and scientific officer at the
Alzheimer's Association, added that "while we're always excited to
learn of study findings, similar results have been found in the
The concept of using a dietary supplement with vitamins to make
an effective treatment is an ongoing area of interest and research,
For more on Alzheimer's disease, visit the
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