van der Zwaluw NL, Dhonukshe-Rutten RA, van Wijngaarden JP, Brouwer-Brolsma EM, van de Rest O, In 't Veld PH, Enneman AW, van Dijk SC, Ham AC, Swart KM, van der Velde N, van Schoor NM, van der Cammen TJ, Uitterlinden AG, Lips P, Kessels RP, de Groot LC (2014) Neurology
We investigated the effects of 2-year folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation on cognitive performance in elderly people with elevated homocysteine (Hcy) levels.
This multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial included 2,919 elderly participants (65 years and older) with Hcy levels between 12 and 50 µmol/L. Participants received daily either a tablet with 400 µg folic acid and 500 µg vitamin B12 (B-vitamin group) or a placebo tablet. Both tablets contained 15 µg vitamin D3. Data were available for global cognitive functioning assessed by Mini-Mental State Examination (n = 2,556), episodic memory (n = 2,467), attention and working memory (n = 759), information processing speed (n = 731), and executive function (n = 721).
Mean age was 74.1 (SD 6.5) years. Hcy concentrations decreased 5.0 (95% confidence interval -5.3 to -4.7) µmol/L in the B-vitamin group and 1.3 (-1.6 to -0.9) µmol/L in the placebo group. Cognitive domain scores did not differ over time between the 2 groups, as determined by analysis of covariance. Mini-Mental State Examination score decreased with 0.1 (-0.2 to 0.0) in the B-vitamin group and 0.3 (-0.4 to -0.2) in the placebo group (p = 0.05), as determined by an independent t test.
Two-year folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation did not beneficially affect performance on 4 cognitive domains in elderly people with elevated Hcy levels. It may slightly slow the rate of decline of global cognition, but the reported small difference may be attributable to chance.
This study provides Class I evidence that 2-year supplementation with folic acid and vitamin B12 in hyperhomocysteinemic elderly people does not affect cognitive performance.
13 November 2014 - BBC News - Dementia study questions advice on taking supplements
For more recent research, please see:
Jernerén et al., 2015 - Brain atrophy in cognitively impaired elderly: the importance of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and B vitamin status in a randomized controlled trial.