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Vitamins B useless against Alzheimer's?

alzheimersFor millions who wished they could prevent Alzheimer's disease by taking B vitamins, Oxford University researchers have bad news. "Our study draws a line under the debate: B vitamins do not reduce cognitive decline as we age. Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 is sadly not going to prevent Alzheimer's disease," said professor Robert Clarke, who led the work. High levels in the blood of a compound called homocysteine have been found in people with Alzheimer's disease, and people with higher levels of homocysteine have been shown to be at increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. (Read: Could a sleep disorder indicate Alzheimer's or Parkinson's?)

Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 are known to lower levels of homocysteine in the body, so this gave rise to the 'homocysteine hypothesis' that taking B vitamins could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. But the new study shows that B vitamins are not effective enough to slow mental decline. The researchers brought together data from 11 randomised clinical trials involving 22,000 people which compared the effect of B vitamins on cognitive function in older people against placebo. (Read: Could you suffer from Alzheimer's in the future? Take this blood test to find out)

Participants receiving B vitamins did see a reduction in the levels of homocysteine in their blood by around a quarter. However, this had no effect on their mental abilities. The findings appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (Read: Are you forgetful? Here are 5 reasons for memory loss)

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What is alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative mental disease that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. It is the most common form of dementia and is commonly seen in the elderly. While the chances of developing the disease increase with age, it is now seen that younger people are also now being diagnosedwith the disease.

During the course of Alzheimer's disease, nerve cells in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought die due to plaque deposition. Symptoms include confusion, mood swings, impaired reasoning or judgement, long-term memory loss and a gradual loss of bodily functions.Dementia is the most prominently visible symptom. People with Alzheimer's begin to have problems recognising family and friends. They also find it exceptionally difficult to learn new things, carry out tasks that involve multiple steps (like getting dressed) and cope with new situations. They might suffer from insomnia. In the more severe stages of Alzheimer's disease, the brain completely shrinks and they become increasinglydependent on others.

The diagnosis of Alzheimer's is usually based on collective symptoms and family history. Other tests that can be performed are mental status tests and radiological tests. A recent advancement in the diagnosis of the disease is the use of biomarkers. Current treatments for Alzheimer's are based on treating the symptoms but they do not eliminate the cause. The best way to slow the process and prevent it from progressing is early medical intervention. The earlier the condition is identified, the better the prognosis. Treatments include medications for memory loss and treatments for behavioural and sleep changes. Intervention therapies like reminiscence therapy, simulated presence therapy and validation theory may improve the quality of a patient's life.

With inputs from IANS

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