New research has determined that vitamin B supplements do not slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Researchers hypothesized that vitamin B might be beneficial in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms because the nutrient lowers blood levels of homocysteine.
Homocysteine, an amino acid produced by the body, is elevated in people with the disease and has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 5.2 Americans are currently living with the disease.
Alzheimer's attacks brain cells, killing some and weakening the effectiveness of others. The most obvious symptom of Alzheimer's is the loss of memory and the associated inability to recognize friends and loved ones.
Usually the disease strikes slowly and the symptoms go unnoticed or are discounted. Eventually the victim has difficulty expressing thoughts and performing common activities.
The tangles and plagues associated with Alzheimer’s act as weeds that suffocate the healthy brain tissues causing it to die.
In a randomized study conducted on 409 patients diagnosed with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Patients were assigned to one of three groups – to take vitamin B6 and B12 supplements, high doses of folate or a placebo for 18 months.
Researchers measured the rate of the cognitive decline using Alzheimer’s Assessment Scale.
The group taking vitamin B supplements showed no decrease in disease progression when compared to the placebo group.
“A regimen of high-dose vitamin B supplements does not slow down cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s,” states Paul S. Aisen, M.D. and colleagues of the University of California, Department of Neurosciences.
The study findings show homocysteine levels were successfully lowered, but, it did not translate into cognitive or clinical benefits, said Aisen. “In short, high dosages of vitamin B are not helpful in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Once Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed in a patient, treating risk factors may not help to slow down the disease’s progression, in fact, it may prove harmful to the patient, says Dr. Greg M. Cole, Ph.D., a professor of medicine and neurology at the University of California.
This is yet another attempt to use high-vitamin dosages like drugs in the treatment and prevention of disease, Pamela Mason of Health Supplements Information Services, said in a news release. “Vitamin B supplements are not intended to combat or treat Alzheimer’s disease. They are health supplements and their role is to maintain good health. This study, like many others evaluating vitamins fails to address the issue of health maintenance.”
The study, “High-Dose B Vitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer Disease,” is published online in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In another study, researchers suggest they may be one step closer to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease while the patient is still alive, increasing the opportunity for treatment sooner.
A positive identification is typically not done until after death, when an autopsy can be conducted. While a patient is alive a series of tests may be given to determine brain decline, a less exact method of diagnosis. #