Washington, Feb 5 : A new study has suggested that folate deficiency may triple the risk of developing dementia among elderly people.
For the study, the researchers followed the development of dementia in 518 people for two years (2001-2003). All the individuals recruited for the study were more than 65 years of age and lived in one rural and one urban area in the south of the country.
The researchers performed validated tests, at the start and end of the two year period to find out if they had a dementing illness. They also took blood tests to examine the levels of folate, vitamin B12, and the protein homocysteine, and how these changed over time.
High levels of homocysteine have been associated with cardiovascular disease.
It was found out that at the start of the two year period, almost one in five people had high levels of homocysteine, while 17pct had low vitamin B12 levels and 3.5pct were folate deficient. Also, the higher the levels of folate, the higher were vitamin B12 levels, and the lower those of homocysteine.
Ate the end of the study, 45 people had developed dementia. Out of these, 34 had Alzheimer's disease, 7 had vascular dementia, and 4 had "other" types of dementia.
Participants who were older relatively poorly educated, inactive, and had deposits of the protein ApoE were more likely to have dementia. In addition, the onset of dementia was significantly more likely in those whose folate levels fell further over the two years, while their homocysteine levels rose.
And, people who were initially folate deficient were almost 3.5 times more prone to develop dementia.
It was recommended by the authors that changes in micronutrients could be associated with the other typical signs that precede dementia, including weight loss and low blood pressure.
Though, weight loss is not likely to alter micronutrients levels in the blood, it may indicate dietary changes in the quality of quantity of food intake.
The study is published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.