B vitamins fail in U.S. Alzheimer’s disease study

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - High doses of B vitamins failed to slow cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease, dashing the hopes for a new weapon against the fatal, mind-robbing ailment, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Experts had viewed B vitamins as a potential way to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or slow its progression because the vitamins can cut the amount of the amino acid homocysteine, found in high levels in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients.

But when the researchers gave people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease high-dose supplements of vitamins B6 and B12 and the B vitamin folic acid for 18 months, they did no better on tests assessing cognitive skills such as memory and language than similar patients who were given a placebo.

And the people who got the vitamin supplements unexpectedly experienced greater amounts of depression, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Our results give a very clear answer that these vitamins should not be taken to treat Alzheimer’s disease. They’re ineffective,” said Dr. Paul Aisen of the University of California San Diego, who led the study.

Alzheimer’s is an incurable brain disease that worsens over time. It is the most common form of dementia in the elderly.

“Alzheimer’s disease breeds a great deal of desperation. So people will go to the health food store and look on the shelf that says ‘brain health’ and take one of everything,” said Bill Thies, vice president for medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association advocacy group.

“These B vitamins are included in there. But this data really suggests that they’re probably not getting any benefit. It is apparently a waste of money,” Thies said.  Continued…

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