Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The B vitamins that ward off Alzheimer's
Article Type: Food Facts From: Nutrition & Food Science, Volume 38, Issue 3.
Currently in Britain more than half a million people suffer from Alzheimer's disease, costing the National Health Service £17 billion a year. With an ever-ageing population, the prediction is that by 2030, 20 per cent of people over 65, more than a million people in the UK, will have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. BBC's Panorama has recently aired a programme called "Please Look After Dad", an investigation into the case of a woman convinced that the powerful anti-psychotic drugs prescribed for her father's dementia were doing him harm. Results of a long-term scientific study will be disclosed showing that she may have been right.
Anti-psychotic drugs were originally developed for treating schizophrenia, acting like a heavy tranquilliser "calming down" patients by making their hallucinations less intense. It is thought they do the same for patients with dementia. It has been reported by many carers that the drugs actually make them more confused. Additional questions about their side effects have more recently been put under the spotlight.
At an international conference on the prevention of Alzheimer's disease in Washington this June, preliminary results from the VITAL trial in the USA were reported. This trial gave high doses of B vitamins to patients with Alzheimer's disease. While those with moderately severe symptoms were not helped, those with mild symptoms were stabilised. A trial of folic acid in the Netherlands published in the Lancet early in 2007 showed that this B vitamin can slow down age-related cognitive decline. But how do you know if you are at risk? According to Patrick Holford, "The chances are that the risk of Alzheimer's disease can be identified early with a simple blood homocysteine test and corrected with large amounts of B vitamins. The tragedy is that this simple test is hardly ever done. In Britain we run 20,000 home tests a year. In Germany it is over 2 million. Alzheimer's is not an inevitable part of the aging process it is a disease. These drugs are not treating the disease and may even be doing more harm than good".
Holford continues, "At the Brain Bio Centre we are not only seeing big improvements in people with age-related memory problems, but we're also seeing mild improvements in Alzheimer's patients. They're certainly not getting worse".