Scientists recent found low levels of folate (vitamin B9) in the blood may be linked to a heightened risk of dementia and death from any cause in older people.
They suggest Levels should be routinely monitored and deficiencies corrected in older age, especially given that blood levels of folate tend to tail off with age, with up to 1 in 5 older adults estimated to be folate deficient.
The research is published in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health.
The evidence to date suggests that folate deficiency affects cognition and nerve signaling in the brain, making it a possible risk factor for subsequent dementia.
But the few studies that have looked at this have included small numbers of participants and produced mixed results.
In the study, researchers wanted to see if serum folate deficiency might be linked to the risks of incident dementia and death from any cause in a large national sample of older adults.
They drew on the medical records of 27,188 people served by one national healthcare provider in Israel.
All the participants were aged between 60 and 75, and had had no pre-existing dementia for at least 10 years before blood folate checks began in 2013.
Their records were monitored for a diagnosis of dementia or death up to the end of 2017.
The team found some 3418 (just under 13%) participants were folate deficient, defined as levels below 4.4 ng/ml.
Folate deficiency was associated with a substantially heightened risk of both dementia and death from any cause.
Among those who were folate deficient, the incidence of dementia was estimated at 7.96 per 10,000 person-years, while death from any cause was estimated at 19.20 per 10,000 person-years.
This compares with an estimated dementia incidence of 4.24 and of death from any cause of 5.36 per 10,000 person-years among those who weren’t folate deficient.
In percentage terms, rates of dementia were almost 3.5% and of death from any cause just under 8% among those with folate deficiency.
This compares with dementia rates of just over 3% and of death from any cause of almost 4% among those who weren’t folate deficient.
After accounting for potentially influential factors, the folate-deficient were 68% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia and nearly 3 times as likely to die from any cause.
The team says it’s possible that folate deficiency might affect homocysteine levels and therefore the vascular risk of dementia, and/or compromise DNA repair of neurons, making them vulnerable to oxidative damage, which in turn might speed up brain cell aging and damage.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about these high blood pressure drugs may lower dementia risk, and this common nutrient may protect your brain, preventing dementia.
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