B Vitamins May Not Boost Memory or Thinking, Study Suggests

Folic acid and vitamin B12 reduce harmful substance, but don't improve recall

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 12, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Taking vitamin B12 or folic acid supplements may not reduce seniors' risk of memory loss, according to a new study.

Past research hinted that taking vitamin B12 and folic acid might help protect memory and thinking skills, according to background information from the study. But follow-up trials have yielded less convincing findings.

The current study included nearly 3,000 people. Their average age was 74 years. Half took a tablet daily with 500 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 and 400 mcg of folic acid, and the rest took a placebo every day for two years. All of the participants had high levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, which has been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, according to the study.

Memory and thinking skills tests were given at the start and end of the study. Results of the study appear online in the Nov. 12 issue of the journal Neurology.

"Since homocysteine levels can be lowered with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements, the hope has been that taking these vitamins could also reduce the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer's disease," Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten, of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

Dhonukshe-Rutten and her colleagues found that people taking the vitamin B12-folic acid supplements had larger decreases in homocysteine levels than those taking the placebo. Despite that decrease, there was no difference between the two groups on the thinking and memory tests.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about memory loss.

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