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Originally published October 3 2005

Folate aids memory and keeps the mind young

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an important new study looked at the impact of nutrition over a long period of time and based on examinations of 321 subjects has found that foods like green leafy vegetables, rich in B vitamins, seem to have a positive impact on the sharpness of the mind in old age.

Given the rising costs of healthcare, dietary measures may be a cheap and effective way of warding off health conditions that typically affect the elderly, such as Alzheimers and heart disease. Earlier research has indicated that higher levels of homocysteine, a amino acid known to be a marker of cardiovascular disease risk, are linked to lower cognitive test scores. Since taking folate supplements has been shown to help reduce homocysteine levels, the researchers hypothesized that this might be the reason behind folate's beneficial effects. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 321 men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, aged between 50 and 85 years. Their cognitive function was assessed through a Mini-Mental State Examination and on the basis of measures of memory, verbal fluency, and constructional praxis at the start of the study and after three years. Their diets were also assessed at baseline using a food frequency questionnaire, and blood samples were taken to assess serum homocysteine and B vitamins levels. At the end of the follow-up period, the researchers, led by Katherine Tucker, PhD, of Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, saw that there was a significant association between decline in spatial copying ability (a measure of constructional praxis) and plasma levels of homocysteine, folate, and vitamins B-6 and B-12, as well as dietary intake of each of the vitamins. Interestingly, however, the effects of folate on cognitive function were seen to be independent of its impact on homocysteine: dietary folate seemed to protect against a decline in verbal fluency and a decline in spatial copying, whereas high homocysteine concentration appeared to be linked to recall memory decline. "Low B vitamin and high homocysteine concentrations predict cognitive decline," concluded Tucker and her team.

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