Recent research suggests that the risk of dementia in elderly people is increased three times by a lack of folate.
518 people were monitored for the development of dementia during the years 2001 through 2003. All subjects were aged 65 and over and lived in either a rural or urban community in the southern part of the country. Tests were carried out at the beginning and end of the 2-year period to check for any dementing illnesses. Blood tests were also conducted to measure levels of folate, vitamin B12, and the protein homocysteine, and how these changed over time. High levels of homocysteine have been associated with cardiovascular disease.
At the beginning of 2001, almost 20% of people monitored hd high levels of homocysteine, 3.5% were folate deficient, and 17% had low vitamin B12 levels.The higher the beginning levels of folate, the higher were vitamin B12 levels, and the lower were those of homocysteine.
By the end of 2003, 45 people had developed dementia, and of these 34 had Alzheimer’s disease, 7 had vascular dementia and 4 had other types of dementia. It was observed that dementia was more probable in the older, poorly educated and inactive subjects, and among those who had deposits of th protein ApoE.
People whose folate levels fell during the 2-year period were significantly more likely to develop dementia, while their homocysteine levels rose. People who were folate deficient to begin with, were almost 3.5 times more likely to develop dementia.
The research was published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Source: J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2008; doi 10.1136/jnnp.2007.131482