Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Research Article

B-vitamins and prevention of dementia

Plenary Lecture

The Summer Meeting of the Nutrition Society, was held at the University of Ulster, Coleraine, hosted by the Irish Section.

Robert Clarkea1 c1

a1 Clinical Trial Service Unit, Richard Doll Building, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK

Abstract

Elevated plasma homocysteine (Hcy) concentrations have been implicated with risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, but it is unclear whether low vitamin B12 or folate status is responsible for cognitive decline. Most studies reporting associations between cognitive function and Hcy or B-vitamins have used a cross-sectional or case–control design and have been unable to exclude the possibility that such associations are a result of the disease rather than being causal. The Hcy hypothesis of dementia has attracted considerable interest, as Hcy can be easily lowered by folic acid and vitamin B12, raising the prospect that B-vitamin supplementation could lower the risk of dementia. While some trials assessing effects on cognitive function have used folic acid alone, vitamin B12 alone or a combination, few trials have included a sufficient number of participants to provide reliable evidence. An individual-patient-data meta-analysis of all randomised trials of the effects on cognitive function and vascular risk of lowering Hcy with B-vitamins will maximise the power to assess the epidemiologically-predicted differences in risk. Among the twelve large randomised Hcy-lowering trials for prevention of vascular disease, data should be available on about 30 000 participants with cognitive function. The principal investigators of such trials have agreed to combine individual-participant data from their trials after their separate publication.

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Dr Robert Clarke, fax +44 1865 743985, email robert.clarke@ctsu.ox.ac.uk