Women who take in higher levels of folate via either diet or supplements appear to have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, says a study in the Archives of Neurology. The discovery may be important in light of the prediction by health authorities that the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease is set to quadruple over the next 40 years.
The study was based on an assessment of the dietary habits of nearly 1,000 subjects over the course of six years. Interestingly, the researchers found that neither dietary folate nor supplements alone were significantly linked to Alzheimer's disease risk; only the two in combination appeared to produce an effect.
The researchers suspect that elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood, which is linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, may also increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease. Folate is important in the body's processing of homocysteine - therefore, deficiencies in these nutrients increase homocysteine levels and may contribute to cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia.
But the researchers caution that definitive conclusions about the role of folate in the development of Alzheimer's disease cannot yet be made and decisions to increase folate intake to prevent Alzheimer's disease should await clinical trials.
Source: Archives of Neurology