Folic Acid May Reduce Age-Related Memory Problems
WebMD News Archive
Jacobsen disagrees. He says a cocktail of three vitamin
supplements -- folic acid, B12, and B6 -- can dramatically lower homocysteine
levels, even in those who get the recommended levels of the vitamins in their
"Homocysteine levels naturally increase as you age," he
says. "And anyone who is not supplementing and is eating a regular western
diet probably has high-normal to very high homocysteine."
Jacobsen, 62, recommends taking 400-800 mcg of folic acid every
day and 25-100 mg of vitamin B6. He says it is not clear if B12 supplementation
is beneficial in younger people, but it does appear to benefit those over 50.
He takes 500 mcg of B12 each day.
"There is no doubt in my mind that supplementation lowers
homocysteine levels," he says. "We live in an age of evidence-based
medicine, though, and we don't have the evidence yet to conclusively show that
lowering homocysteine has any positive clinical effect. But it is also very
safe to take these three water-soluble vitamins."
So should homocysteine levels be checked routinely, just like
cholesterol and blood pressure? One problem with this, experts say, is that
there is still controversy about what constitutes high and normal homocysteine
levels. And the CDC is working to standardize homocysteine measurement. In
November of 1999, CDC researchers compared the accuracy of homocysteine assay
readings at 14 different labs around the U.S., and found significant
Ongoing studies may prove that lowering homocysteine levels can
help prevent memory problems associated with aging, but Morris says it is
already clear that other unidentified factors are also involved.
"It is a little discouraging, but it does appear that as
you age your memory does decrease," she says. "Hopefully, folate
fortification can impact this. But it is still a fact that our short-term
memory at age 70 is probably going to be worse than it was at age 60, and we
don't really know why."