B-vitamin treatment signiﬁcantly reduces regional loss of GM. 3D rendering of brain regions in blue–white where B-vitamin treatment signiﬁcantly reduces GM loss over the 2-y period (P < 0.05 FWE-corrected). All blue/white areas correspond to regions of signiﬁcant loss in placebo and known to be vulnerable in Alzheimer’s disease. (PNAS)
Cheap and readily available vitamins may succeed in slowing the development of Alzheimer's disease and dementia where expensive prescription drugs have repeatedly failed.
New research shows that regular intake of the vitamins B6 and B12, combined with folic acid, can slow the atrophy of gray matter in the areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer's by as much as seven times.
The study, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that elderly people with increased risk of dementia who were given high doses of B vitamins experienced lower homocysteine, which directly reduces gray matter atrophy.
The vitamin cocktail does not reverse already occurring decline, but delays the beginning of the disease.
"It’s the first and only disease-modifying treatment that’s worked,” A. David Smith, professor emeritus of pharmacology at Oxford University and senior author on the study, told Bloomberg. “We have proved the concept that you can modify the disease."
“It’s a big effect, much bigger than we would have dreamt of. I find the specificity of this staggering. We never dreamt it would be so specific.”
Although wider studies are needed to confirm the findings, pharmaceutical companies, who have spent billions on so-far ineffective therapies -- won't likely want to fund the research.
“The pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to make any money on this and the supplement companies aren’t going to have enough money to do it,” Joshua Miller, a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University, said. “This would have to be government-funded. I’m just not sure the climate is right for it now.”