Combination of B vitamins and fish oil reduces age-related brain atrophy
Your brain, like your muscles, starts to shrink as you age. This atrophy can lead to dementia and Alzheimer's. This process can be inhibited by taking supplements containing B vitamins, researchers at the University of Oxford discovered. But the B vitamins only work if there are enough fish fatty acids such as DHA and EPA in your blood.
The researchers gave 85 people over the age of 70 a daily pill containing 800 microgram folic acid, 20 microgram vitamin B6 and 500 microgram vitamin B12, for two years. The supplement used was TrioBe Plus, manufactured by the Swedish company Recip AB.
A group of 83 people over the age of 70 was given a placebo.
The researchers used MRI to measure the size of the subjects' brain mass before supplementation started and at the end of the two years. The supplementation itself had no effect – but when the researchers also looked at the concentration of fish fatty acids in the subjects' blood they noticed that there had been an effect. In the subjects who had relatively high levels of DHA and EPA in their blood, the B vitamins had reduced the decrease in brain mass.
Dark bars: placebo group; grey bars: vitamin B group.
"In conclusion, we have shown that the effect of B vitamin supplementation on brain atrophy rates depends on pre-existing plasma n-3 fatty acid concentrations", the researchers wrote. "This finding could possibly explain why some B vitamin trials on brain function have failed."
The researchers suggest that more research needs to be done in which elderly subjects are given both B vitamins and fish oil supplements.
The university where the researchers work has patents on the use of B vitamins to treat Alzheimer's and age-related mental decline. [US 6008221 A] [US 6127370 A] [GB2010/051557] And the names of the researchers who worked on this study are mentioned in these patents.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):215-21.
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