Expert calls for vitamin B test on dementia patients

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All patients suspected of dementia should be tested for vitamin B insufficiency, a leading expert says. Professor David Smith, former Chair of Pharmacology and Deputy Head of the Division of Medical Sciences at Oxford University says patients with early age-related memory loss should be checked for B vitamin and omega 3 levels with a simple blood test.

If levels are inadequate, patients should be prescribed supplements of B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid) together with omega 3 fats which when combined have been shown to slow or halt cognitive decline.

His call comes alongside the publication of a new meta-analysis of 14 studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition which found those aged 60-70 who were supplemented with a combination of B vitamins and omega 3 fats had less cognitive decline than those who did not.

The research, which included a total of 4913 people who were followed up between 6 months and four years concluded “increasing intake of both nutrients benefits cognition in older adults compared to placebo.”

This meta-analysis follows a groundbreaking study led by Professor David Smith, director of the Oxford University Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), carried out in 2015 which found a dramatic reduction in brain shrinkage and memory loss among those supplemented with high levels of B vitamins compared to those who were not, but only in those who had sufficient blood levels of omega-3 fats.

In Professor Smith’s 2-year study of 270 over 70’s with early cognitive decline half were given vitamin B and another half dummy pills.

The groups given the B vitamins who had sufficient omega-3 levels had an average of 68 percent less brain shrinkage and virtually no further memory loss compared to those who were given placebos.

Prof Smith said the trial, which was part-funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK, showed the effects of B Vitamins plus Omega 3 outweighed any benefits shown in any drug trials.

He said: “The effect is greater than that of any drug treatment to date – with no adverse effects.”

He added: “This effect has more recently been confirmed by other studies – one of which found the benefits of this combination of supplements has more than three times the clinical dementia benefit of any drug trial.”

He added: “There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and there will never be a cure. By the time a person has developed this disease the brain is too shrunken and damaged to be repaired by any pill. Even if we could find a way to replace lost nerve cells we cannot replace the memories lost with those and ultimately those drugs will stop working. With such striking results why are these findings being ignored?”

“This combination of supplements has been shown to dramatically slow the progression of this disease. If a drug company trial had results like this it would be described as a multi-billion pound blockbuster overnight.”

He added: “I would advise all memory clinics measure levels of homocysteine – a substance found in the blood of those with insufficient B vitamins – which increases the risk of dementia by up to ten times.”

Patrick Holford, director of, a leading dementia prevention charity which offers a free online cognitive function test said: “You cannot build brain cells without both omega-3 fats and sufficient B vitamins

“If you give a builder a hammer or a bag of nails you don’t get a house. But if you give them both they can build a house. Both are vital for building brain cells. Neither can work without the other.”

”I’ve got my husband back”

Alan Norris, 68, a former computer programmer and father of one, from Worthing, Sussex was diagnosed with dementia last December.

He carried out a cognition test at which highlighted he was missing vital B vitamins. When started taking these in the form of supplements and improved his diet and became more physically and socially active he says his “brain came back to life.”

His wife Dorothy, 73, a former midwife, said: “The transformation in three months has been remarkable. I feel like I’ve got my husband back.”

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