With more than 55 million people already living with it worldwide, and nearly 10 million new cases occurring every year, dementia is now the seventh leading cause of death globally. Despite this, and billions of dollars of pharmaceutical industry investment over the past decades, conventional medicine continues to have no effective means of preventing or eradicating the syndrome. Pointing the way towards a new approach, a recent systematic review suggests that supplementing with B vitamins, especially folic acid, may have a positive effect on delaying and preventing the risk of cognitive decline.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients by researchers from Germany and Spain, the review examines a total of 27 scientific articles testing the effects of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E on dementia. Fourteen of the 27 studies looked at the effects of B vitamins. Of these studies, two looked at vitamin B12, one at vitamin B1, five at folic acid, and six at the concomitant use of various B Complex vitamins.
A variety of dosages were used in the B vitamin studies. In the studies involving vitamin B12, the dosages ranged from 10 mcg to 1 mg daily. For vitamin B1, doses of up to 300 mg given twice per day were used. The dosage of folic acid varied from 400 mcg to 30 mg per day. Other B Complex vitamins examined included vitamin B2 and vitamin B6, each of which were supplemented at a dosage of 10 mg per day.
The researchers found that some of the trials showed very promising results for B Complex vitamin supplements. Overall, either given alone or in combination with other B vitamins, the most effective vitamin against dementia proved to be folic acid. The researchers say that all of the studies included in their review which compared folic acid supplementation with either placebo or conventional treatment proved to have better outcomes on cognitive tests than their respective control groups.
The review also suggests that the combined use of folic acid and vitamin B12 may be linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline. In fact, the researchers state outright that very promising results were shown in most of the trials in which these two vitamins were given concomitantly. Similarly, vitamin B1 not only had a positive impact on cognitive performance when given alone, but also when given in combination with folic acid. Supplementing folic acid along with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, also proved to significantly improve cognitive function.
Regarding the other vitamins studied, the researchers say a combination of low dose vitamin C and vitamin E was not associated with an improvement in cognitive function. However, when given at a daily dose of 2000 IU, vitamin E seemed to be associated with a slower cognitive decline, while a 500 mg per day dose of vitamin C was found to contribute to a significantly better cognitive performance.
For vitamin D, the researchers found that study results varied widely. They note however that the particular dosage regimen employed can play an important role in determining the effectiveness of an intervention.
With other researchers having already confirmed the beneficial effects of nutrients and phytonutrients on cognitive function, and additional studies suggesting synergistic combinations of antioxidants may prevent and even reverse Alzheimer’s disease, it is time for these safe and affordable natural health approaches to be employed in clinical practice. Research published in The Lancet suggests that by 2016 the total global economic costs of dementia had reached $948 billion. In this situation, to continue to deny proven nutrient-based treatments to sufferers and their families is both economically unsustainable and a crime against humanity.