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B Vitamins, Folic Acid May Be Able to Slow Decline of Alzheimer's Disease

Update Date: May 21, 2013 02:54 PM EDT

Researchers have found that taking B-vitamins may be able to help slow the decline of Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for an estimated 50 to 80 percent of dementias.

According to the World Health Organization, it is believed that 36 million people in the world currently suffer from dementia. Due to a graying population, it is believed that number will explode in the near future, with health officials expecting the toll of dementia to hit 115 million in 2050.

As a result, drug makers have searched for ways to hit the disease, but there is no way to currently cure, treat or even sufficiently slow the disease. Recent research indicates that B-vitamins may serve as a surprising ally in the fight against the illness, indicating even further that the diet and exercise are the only tools in the box right now to fight Alzheimer's disease. The Telegraph reports that the vitamins may be able to prevent shrinkage by 90 percent in the portions of the brain most severely impacted by the disease, the hippocampus and the cerebellum.

According to New Scientist, the study was performed by using 200 elderly volunteers with mild cognitive impairment and with high levels of homocysteine, a substance linked to an increased risk of dementia. Over the course of the two-year study, half of the volunteers received a cocktail of Vitamin B-12, Vitamin B-6 and folic acid at 300, 20 and four times that of the Unite Kingdom's daily guidelines. The other half of the volunteers received a placebo. Researchers examined the changes in the participants' brains through use of an MRI machine.

In the group given the placebo, their brains atrophied by an average of 5.2 percent. In the group given the vitamin cocktail, their brains atrophied by 0.6 percent - about on par with a healthy person over the age of 60. The volunteers who were given the vitamins also performed better on mental tests.

Bloomberg reports that Vitamin B-12 is found in fish and milk, while folic acid is found in fruits and vegetables. Other studies have found that the vitamins have little cognitive benefit for people who are healthy or who have severe Alzheimer's disease. However, this finding shows that, if the disease is caught early, interventions can be made.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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