Folate Works with Vitamin [B.Sub.12] to Protect Cognitive Function

Nutrition Health Review, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Folate Works with Vitamin [B.Sub.12] to Protect Cognitive Function


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Folate and vitamin [B.sub.12], two important nutrients for the development of healthy nerves and blood cells, may work together to protect cognitive function among older adults, according to results from a new epidemiological study. The findings also suggested that low vitamin [B.sub.12] status was associated with increased cognitive impairment.

Martha Savaria Morris, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer U.S.D.A. Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, said:

"We found a strong relationship between high folate status and good cognitive function among people 60 and older who also had adequate levels of vitamin [B.sub.12]."

Using data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2002, the researchers found that people with normal vitamin [B.sub.12] status and high serum folate levels, had higher scores on a test of cognitive function. Blood tests were used to determine folate and vitamin [B.sub.12] levels, and the cognitive function test assessed aptitudes such as response speed, sustained attention, visual spatial skills, associative learning, and memory. Cognitive impairment was identified when a subject fell into the bottom 20th percentile of the distribution on the test.

"People with normal vitamin [B.sub.12] status performed better if their serum folate was high," explains Dr. Morris. "But for people with low vitamin [B.sub.12] status, high serum folate was associated with poor performance on the cognitive test."

Elderly patients with low vitamin [B.sub.12] levels and high serum folate levels were also significantly more likely than those in other categories to have anemia. Anemia is characterized by reduced amounts of hemoglobin in the oxygen-carrying red blood cells or by a deficient number or volume of such cells.

"For seniors, low vitamin [B.sub.12] status and high serum folate was the worst combination," said Dr. Morris.

She explained that anemia and cognitive impairment were observed nearly five times as often for people with this combination than among those with normal levels of vitamin [B. …

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Folate Works with Vitamin [B.Sub.12] to Protect Cognitive Function
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