Scientists unveiled the latest weapon in the battle against Alzheimer's disease yesterday – a humble vitamin.
Researchers from the University of Oxford have found that taking tablets of three B vitamins every day slows the brain shrinkage that happens with age, causing early signs of dementia such as memory loss.
In a two-year trial, the vitamin supplement delayed the rate of brain atrophy by up to half in a group of elderly people, with a more than 30 per cent reduction overall. Cognitive tests show those with the least shrinkage perform best.
A vitamin pill that curbed the mental decline associated with ageing would have colossal implications. About 1.5 million people in the UK, 14 million in Europe and five million in the US have problems with memory, language or other mental functions known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), half of whom go on to develop Alzheimer's or another form of dementia within five years. Even a slight slowing of this process would have immense human and economic benefits. However, the researchers said it was too soon to recommend elderly people suffering memory lapses should take B vitamin supplements, until further studies had confirmed the benefits and risks.