Folic Acid May Improve Cognitive Performance

By Finn, Robert | Clinical Psychiatry News, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Folic Acid May Improve Cognitive Performance


Finn, Robert, Clinical Psychiatry News


Older adults who took 800 mcg of folic acid daily for 3 years showed significantly less cognitive decline than those who took placebo, according to a randomized, double-blind trial.

Three years of folic acid supplementation gave an individual the performance of someone 4.7 years younger for memory, 2.1 years younger for information processing speed, and 1.5 years younger for global cognitive function, said Jane Durga, Ph.D., of Wageningen (the Netherlands) University and her associates (Lancet 2007;369:208-16).

According to the investigators, folic acid supplementation was associated with particularly good results in the most clinically relevant subtest, the one that measured delayed recall. After 3 years of supplementation, patients experienced an improvement in performance similar to that of an individual 6.9 years younger.

In an accompanying editorial comment, Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., and Christine C. Tangney, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, noted that normal levels of folic acid intake vary greatly across different regions, ethnic groups, ages, and socioeconomic circumstances (Lancet 2007;369:166-7).

In the United States and Canada, for example, grain is fortified with folic acid, and now less than 1% of the U.S. population has an inadequate serum folate status. There is no such fortification in the Netherlands, where the study was conducted, and where the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of folic acid is 300 mcg/day, lower than the U.S. RDA of 400 mcg/day.

In general, dietary folic acid intake is about 200 mcg/day in northern Europe but up to 559 mcg/day in Greece, where many eat the so-called Mediterranean diet. Before the fortification of grain began in the United States, mean folic acid intake was estimated at 275 mcg/day.

The study involved 818 individuals aged 50-70 years who are participating in the Folic Acid and Carotid Intima-Media Thickness (FACIT) trial, with a primary end point involving atherosclerotic progression. …

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