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Study Finds B Vitamins Do Not Slow Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers have been looking for ways to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease, which is affecting more and more people worldwide. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the latest research aimed at slowing the progression of the disease.

Life for Gary and Mary Paun changed profoundly three years ago when Mary began experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

"It just disrupts mostly what we thought was normal life," Gary recalls. "But it's also brought us a lot closer together."

The World Health Organization says the number of Alzheimer cases doubles every five years for people between the ages of 65 and 85.

But, if the onset could be delayed by five years, the number of cases worldwide would be cut in half.

Doctors had hoped high doses of vitamin B could reduce the rate of brain cell death and slow the progression of the disease.

But a new study shows the supplements were not effective and, instead, seemed to increase depression in patients taking them.

Dr. Paul Aisen was one of the researchers.

"Unfortunately the results were disappointing in the sense that this intervention," Dr. Aisen said. "The high-dose vitamins - did not have a favorable effect on the disease."

Patients with Alzheimer's have elevated levels of a chemical compound called homocysteine.

B vitamins break down homocysteine in the bloodstream, so doctors tested whether high doses of vitamin B given to Alzheimer's patients would slow their rate of memory loss.
240 patients received daily B vitamins while the other 170 patients received a placebo.

The vitamin supplements lowered homocysteine levels by about 25 percent.

However, both groups had the same rate of memory loss.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some video courtesy of Journal of the American Medical Association