B vitamins combined with omega-3 can help slow mental decline in older people with memory problems, a new study finds.
Dr Celeste de Jager, one of the study’s authors, said:
“We previously found that B vitamins are able to slow or prevent the atrophy of the brain and memory decline in people with MCI.
This was most effective in those who had above average blood levels of homocysteine, a factor related to B vitamin status that may be toxic to the brain.
Scientists in our team initially found that there was a link between Omega-3 levels, homocysteine, and brain atrophy rates.
We wanted to find out whether Omega-3 and B vitamins might interact to prevent cognitive decline.”
The scientists studied 250 people with mild cognitive impairment.
This condition can progress to dementia.
The study’s first author, Dr Abderrahim Oulhaj explained the results:
‘We found that for people with low levels of Omega-3, the vitamin supplements had little to no effect.
But for those with high baseline Omega-3 levels, the B vitamins were very effective in preventing cognitive decline compared to the placebo.
This result complements our previous finding that B vitamins slow the rate of brain atrophy in MCI only in those with a good Omega-3 level to start with.”
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘These results help us to tease apart who could benefit from taking B vitamins, suggesting that they might only improve cognition in people who have high levels of Omega-3 oils in their blood.
Encouragingly, these findings suggest that for some older people a combination of fish oil supplements and B vitamins may help to improve thinking and memory.
As this study shows, the relationship between nutrition and brain health is complex and we need to see increased research efforts to help us understand the role that diet and nutrition can play in reducing a person’s risk of dementia.”
The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Oulhaj et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Brain aging image from Shutterstock