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Does vitamin B actually help tackle dementia?

Does vitamin B actually help tackle dementia?
14th November 2014

Taking vitamin B supplements might not be effective in tackling dementia, according to a new study. 

Contrary to previous research, it transpired that there was no difference in memory ability and recall between the group that had taken the supplements for two years and those who had a placebo.

A study from 2010 suggested there seemed to be a link between taking these supplements and improved memory and thinking skills.

The findings, which were undertaken by scientists from Wageningen University in The Netherlands, involved almost 3,000 people who had an average age of 74. 

One set of participants took 400 micrograms of folic acid and 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day. While there was no tangible evidence of protection against cognitive decline, it did reduce the levels of homocysteine - a protein linked to a heightened risk of developing dementia. 

Experts found there was a small difference in memory ability between the two groups, after conducting four different tests at the beginning and end of the trial. However, they decided this could have been down to​ chance​ because the distinction was negligible. 

Study leader Dr Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten spoke of how their initial hope was that vitamin B supplements would lower the chances of memory loss and developing Alzheimer's disease.

"While the homocysteine levels decreased by more in the group taking the B vitamins than in the group taking the placebo, unfortunately there was no difference between the two groups in the scores on the thinking and memory tests."

Director of research at the Alzheimer's Society Dr Doug Brown said: "This trial adds to a growing weight of evidence that vitamin B levels do not improve memory and thinking."

He called for more studies to see if it would be beneficial for​ those with dementia to take vitamin B supplements, but emphasised how the best way to reduce the risk was exercise regularly, eat well, monitor other health conditions, stop smoking and not drink too much alcohol. 

The full findings of this research can be viewed in the journal Neurology. 

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