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Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/folic-acid-supplements/AN01602
- With Mayo Clinic geriatrician
Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.read biographyclose window
Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.
"The Internet will impact the lives of all patients young and old. Older and mature patients are no exception to this information explosion." — Dr. Takahashi
Dr. Paul Yoshio Takahashi works with elderly patients as a member of the geriatric consultative group at Mayo Clinic. He works in all medical settings, including the outpatient clinic, the nursing home and occasionally the patient's home. He is especially interested in strategies for successful aging, preventing elder abuse and mistreatment, home telemonitoring, frailty, and cognitive screening in elderly patients.
Dr. Takahashi is a consultant in the Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic. He is an associate professor of medicine at College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, and a fellow of the American College of Physicians. He had a fellowship in geriatric medicine at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine from 1997 to 1998.
Dr. Takahashi cares for all of a patient's acute needs and chronic problems and focuses on specialty issues such as memory problems, safety in the home, healthy aging, proper medications and end-of-life concerns.
He sees the Internet playing a growing role in the health information field.
"Patients and their families want and expect the most up-to-date information about life, health, disease and death. Healthy aging as a concept has grown quickly over the last 20 years as we have all lived longer and hopefully better," he says. "I expect that Mayo Clinic will be a significant part of this growing movement of a healthy maturity."
Dr. Takahashi, a native of Pittsfield, Ill., joined Mayo Clinic in 1998 and is board certified in internal medicine with added qualification in geriatric medicine. He is a fellow of the American Geriatrics Society.
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- Rapidly progressing Alzheimer's: Something else?
- Alzheimer's test: Detection at the earliest stages
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Treatments and drugs (3)
- Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
- Vitamin B-12: Can it improve memory in Alzheimer's?
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Lifestyle and home remedies (2)
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Alternative medicine (5)
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Coping and support (1)
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Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
I've heard that folic acid supplements can improve cognitive function in older adults. Could those with Alzheimer's disease also benefit from folic acid?
from Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.
There's no conclusive evidence that folic acid supplements improve cognitive function in older adults or in people with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.
Blood levels of folate are classified as either low or normal in the general population. Low folate blood levels are associated with poor cognitive performance, which could be improved by folic acid supplements. However, folic acid is not helpful for people with normal blood levels.
One study showed cognitive function was significantly better in one group of older adults who took folic acid supplements than in those who did not. However, the participants were already at some risk of cognitive decline because of deficient blood levels of folate. So the results of this study can be generalized neither to all older adults nor to those with Alzheimer's disease.
A review of eight randomized, controlled trials found that the use of folic acid supplements has no benefit on cognitive function in healthy adults or in those with mild to moderate cognitive decline or dementia.
So although it doesn't appear that a folic acid supplement would benefit everyone, it may be something worth discussing with your doctor. Keep in mind that in the United States many foods such as breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid. If you're at high risk of developing dementia or have already experienced some cognitive decline, checking your folic acid levels may be a reasonable step.Next question
Vitamin B-12: Can it improve memory in Alzheimer's?
- Durga J, et al. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: A randomised, double blind, controlled trial. The Lancet. 2007;369:208.
- Malouf R, et al. Folic acid with or without vitamin B12 for the prevention and treatment of healthy elderly and demented people. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2008:CD004514.
- Bauer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 7, 2011.
- Takahashi PY (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 11, 2011.
- Folic acid. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed March 3, 2011.