Can you influence your biological age?

29 January 2024

The short answer is: “Yes. Of course you can.”
The difficult question is: “How much?”

It is not rocket science to figure out that you reduce your chances of a long and good life if you sit in solitude on the sofa all day, smoking, eating chips and drinking cola, sleeping too little and weighing too much. You age faster. It seems to be common knowledge.

Therefore, it is right up our street to start changing such habits if you want to increase the chance of a good and long life, i.e. slow down the speed at which you age. This is what is popularly called lowering one’s biological age.

This question is brought up to date by a popular Danish TV broadcast with mention of research done at the Danish state hospital, Rigshospitalet, where researchers are trying to influence the rate of aging so that you age more slowly or may become a little younger from a biological point of view.

And here they have also tackled the above-mentioned, specific bad habits, after which they “calculate” the biological age before, during and after the intervention.

So how do you calculate this biological age? It is, of course, a purely theoretical age, based on expected remaining life, calculated from an algorithm which is constructed according to the parameters that are now believed to affect life expectancy and the speed of aging in 2024.

The same persons may have a completely different biological age in 5 years, when science has exposed completely different parameters that affect life expectancy even more strongly. This particularly concerns various blood tests, i.e. biochemical parameters, where we are constantly getting smarter.

One of the most reliable measurements of a person’s biological age is probably the measurement of the remaining telomeres in the genetic material of the cell nuclei. These telomeres shorten during cell division, and when we have no more, we die. Many international researchers have been interested in this for the past 20 years, including the Swedish professor Urban Alehagen, who, as mentioned in a previous newsletter has researched the life-extending effect of Q10 and selenium.

In the above-mentioned TV broadcast, the various lifestyle measures have been supplemented by taking a pill with Nicotinamide Riboside, which supports the cells’ energy production.

Many have asked me what it is, and to bring clarity to the many abbreviations and biochemical contexts, I have made a small presentation which can be viewed on Youtube. It is difficult to describe these biochemical processes in a newsletter, which is why we supplement with this video.

Nicotiamide Riboside is only one of many forms of vitamin B3, all of which contribute to increased energy production in the cells’ power plants, where the cell makes its energy, the so-called mitochondria.

We consume vitamin B3 as nicotinic acid or nicotinamide, after which it is converted to nicotinamide riboside (NR) and then to nicotinamide mononucleoside (NMN), which is then converted to what it is all about, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) in the cells .

(NAD has the property that it can alternate between two oxidation stages NAD+ and NADH, thereby contributing to energy production together with Q10.) This takes place in the inner membrane of the mitochondria.

Whether you consume NR or NMN or Nicotinamide is a question of how far down the synthesis pathway you want to start. Overall, the end result will be roughly the same, just with a difference in the amount of NAD formed.

I apologize for the many abbreviations and the somewhat difficult explanation, which I hope my little video can make up for.

Supplements can be exciting and good, and even life-prolonging. But don’t forget the most important things:

A healthy diet, daily exercise, a good night’s sleep, avoid being overweight and stick with your friends from your youth. You won’t get new ones. Stop smoking and moderate your alcohol consumption. It all helps to raise your quality of life and slow down the aging process.

Take care of yourself and others.

Claus Hancke
Specialist in general medicine

The Vitality Council’s 7-minute video about NAD can be seen here:
However, Danish is spoken and it is unfortunately not subtitled.

Folic acid for stroke – and to remember

June 12, 2007

You must remember your folic acid, otherwise you forget it.
This sounds like nonsense, but its not.

Folic acid helps keep the brain in good shape, and if you don’t get enough you might have problems thinking clearly and remembering when you get older.

Folic acid is the vitamin that fertile women should take (0.4 mg per day) unless they are 100% sure that they will not become pregnant. Far from all do this, even though folic acid prevents children from being a lifelong invalids due to spinal chord herniation (spina bifida) and reduces the risk of cleft lip and palate! That it is preventative is so called new knowledge (1) which is to say that it was pointed out, but ignored, over twenty years ago.

But folic acid also helps the memory and thought ability. Who do we know this? The English neurologist Edward Reynolds demonstrated it 40 years ago in hi article in The Lancet. He showed that 26 epilepsy patients who suffered folic acid deficiency due to their medicine improved when they received folic acid (2). This has since been forgotten.

Now there are new studies. One had negative results. Its authors concluded that folic acid has no effect on cognitive function, which did not improve for study participants who received 0.4 mg folic acid daily (without vitamin B12, in which they were mildly deficient) (3).

There is a simple explanation for this: the only lasted 24 weeks. This is not long enough, which will be explained below, but first a couple of other results.

An issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from last February included an article which outlined that the more pronounced folic acid deficiency in elderly people, the poorer (statistically) their cognitive function. The likelihood of decreasing cognitive function was more than doubled in those with a deficiency of folic acid (4). There are many people with folic acid deficiency because folic acid is primarily found in liver and leafy vegetables, which many people push to the side if their plates.

20% fewer strokes
Lack of folic acid is shown roughly by finding increased blood levels of the substance, homocysteine. It is an amino acid which is poisonous to the blood vessels (among other things) and which is believed to lead to atherosclerosis, but that the body nonetheless creates. Normally it is neutralised in part by folic acid. If you lack folic acid, you homocysteine levels rise.

A link between lowered cognitive function and homocysteine has been shown in Sweden (5). There it was shown that elderly people with documented memory problems often had high levels of homocysteine. This was only true with the poor memory was found along with atherosclerosis, which homocysteine is believed to promote!

In addition, Dutch researchers recently showed in a randomised trail that a supplement of folic acid (o.8 mg daily) for 50 – 70 year olds not only reduced their levels of homocysteine, but also statistically improved the “brain functions which have a tendency to decline with age.” Memory, reaction time, and the ability to speak quickly and fluently were bettered. The study lasted for three years, which is a necessary time period (6).

If that is not enough, a comprehensive study of eight randomised studies has recently shown that the risk of stroke resulting from atherosclerosis generally is reduced by 20% when taking folic acid supplements. The studies which lasted longer than three years showed the best results. Participants who had already had a stroke were less protected and if those who were lucky enough to live in a country where food is enriched with folic acid (USA, Canada) showed fewer effects.

We should remember our folic acid. The daily dosage should be between 0.4 and 0.8 mg daily.

By: Vitality Council


1. Bille C et al. Folic acid and birth malformations. BMJ 2007;334:433-34.
2. Reynolds E. Folate and aging. Lancet 2007;;369:1601.
3. Eussen SJ et al. Effect of oral vitamin B12 with or without folic acid on cognitive function in older people with mild vitamin B-12 deficiency: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84(2):361-70.
4. Haan M et al. Homocysteine, B-vitamins, and the incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment: Results from the Sacramento area latino study on aging. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:511-7.
5. Nilsson K et al. Plasma homocysteine is elevated in elderly patients with memory complaints and vascular disease. Dement Geriatr Cogn Discord 2007;23(5):321-6.
6. Durga J et al. Effect of 3-year folic acid supplementation on cognitive function in older adults in the FACIT trial: A randomised double blind controlled trial. The Lancet 2007;369:208-16.
7. Xiaobin Wang et al. Efficacy of folic acid supplementation in stroke prevention: a meta-analysis. The Lancet 2007;369:1876-82.

Children with ADHD lack magneisum

March 17, 2006

A majority of restless ADHD children were lacking in magnesium. All children improved when given magnesium and B6-vitamin supplements.

In almost all kindergarten classes there are one or two so-called ADHD-children giving the teacher a hard time with their continuous restlessness, running about, violent behaviour and inattentiveness. (ADHD stands for Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder).

Two studies – the only ones conducted – have now shown that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 helps.

Why should magnesium help? In a French study 52 children, all diagnosed with ADHD, were examined. The children were typically six years old. If the serum level of magnesium was measured in a normal blood test, normal values were seen. But since almost all magnesium in the body is found inside the cells, this says nothing. It is inside the cells that we must look.

On average, the children only had 4/5 of the amount of magnesium in the cells (in this case, the red blood cells) present in normal adults. They were deficient in magnesium!

Therefore they were given a daily supplement of 6 mg. of magnesium and 0.8 mg. Vitamin B6 per kilo body mass for one to six months. After this, no less than all the children got better. For example, at the beginning of the experiment 26 of the children were deemed physically aggressive. After four months, only six. At the same time their ability to concentrate and their attention span improved (evaluated in an approved manner). Statistically, these results were quite credible.

A weakness in the French study was that it was a so-called open study. There was no untreated control group and the treatment was not blind. This leaves room for coincidence and over-interpretation. On the other hand, the study showed exactly the same as a similar study from 1997. Also, the improvements occurred at the same time as the measurable magnesium deficiency disappeared. When this had happened, treatment was stopped.

Magnesium in the Diet
If it works, it may not be that surprising. The same course of treatment seems to have helped women suffering from irritability and imbalance due to PMS (PreMenstrual Syndrome) in several studies. On top of this comes the generally sedative effect on nerves (magnesium can be used as a local anaesthetic). Magnesium has a relaxing effect on muscles. Does magnesium also have a calming effect on the central nervous system?

Another question is why ADHD-children apparently are deficient in magnesium. The French suggest that genetic factors play a role, but in a majority of the parents, it was not just one, but both of them who were deficient in the mineral. This suggests that nutrition is more important.

A British evaluation indicates that foodstuffs’ content of magnesium has decreased in the past 60 years. It is estimated that today there is 24 and 16 percent less magnesium in vegetables and fruit, respectively, than in 1940. On top of this is an increase in the consumption of sugar. Those who dauntlessly claim that 10 percent of the calories in the diet can be contributed by sugar, are also saying that you can easily omit 10 percent of the diet’s magnesium. Furthermore, less physical work means a decreased need for food generally, thereby decreasing the amount of magnesium we consume. A typical magnesium consumption rate today (3-400 mg. a day) is probably half of what it was 100 years ago.

Something else to consider also is that there is a row of more or less confirmed observations of connections between behavioural disorders in children and teenagers (and criminals) and an unhealthy diet. Is this purely coincidence?
It will take several months to rectify a magnesium deficiency, but it might be worth it to try.

By: Vitality Council

1. Mousain-Bosc et al. Magnesium VitB6 intake reduces central nervous system hyperexcitability in children. J Am Coll Nutrition 2004;23:545S-548S
2. Starobrat-Hermelin et al. The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Magnes Res 1997;10:143-8

Greater need for vitamin B-12

February 1, 2006

Middle-aged and elderly women’s need for Vitamin B-12 is with great certainty 2,5 times higher than previously believed. A daily vitamin tablet is often not enough.

How is the need for a vitamin determined? Earlier it was determined based on how much is necessary to avoid acute deficiencies. This is sometimes still the case. For example, the current recommendations for vitamin C are still based on a World War II study on 20 English military objectors. Half of them came down with scurvy and two were close to death. But this study found that scurvy can be avoided with 12 mg vitamin C per day.

This kind of research is brutal by today’s standards. But it is also antiquated because it does not take other deficiency symptoms into account, including those which arise after longer periods and are not coupled with bruising of the skin, brittle bones, paralyses, and other acute symptoms. Today, instead of merely recording with a study participant becomes deathly ill, we follow the processes that the vitamins in question are involved in and determine whether or not they function as they should. This methodology was used by the American, Mark Levine when he proved that our need for vitamin C is closed to 200 mg per day than the normally recommended 60 mg. If one makes due with 60 mg it is believed that the vitamin C dependant reactions become slow and that there is an significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Of current interest, there is news regarding the need for vitamin B12. The current recommendation in England has been set to 1 microgram per day. A Danish study has recently shown that the need for vitamin B12 is six times as much (6 micrograms). This was determined in a study of 98 Danish women with an average age of 60. Such a large need meanwhile created a problem; the women typically only received 4.6 micrograms via their diet.

Even though they supplemented their intake with a normal vitamin pill (1 microgram B12), half of them received too little vitamin B12. Stronger pills are needed.

Increasing recommendations
For the last 50 years B12 status has been determined by measuring the blood’s B12 content. Findings in recent years have shown that a “normal” B12 value does not necessarily mean that there is enough. Even with a normal B12 value, build op of metabolism products which B12 normally removes can occur (these include homocysteine and MMA, otherwise known as methylmalonic acid). Therefore the amount of these substances present is measured when trying to determine whether or not there is a deficiency.

Recently a third indirect measure for B12 deficiency has been put into focus: holotranscobalamin, a B12 containing protein, seems to be able to replace the above-mentioned method and may even be more sensitive to B12 deficiency. It is very important to get enough of this protein. It is responsible for delivering B12 to the cells, almost like the paperboy who delivers the paper to your door. Without the paperboy, there is no paper.

The Danish study showed that the values for Holotranscobalamin, MMA, and homocysteine no longer indicated deficiency only when a B12 intake of over 6 micrograms per day was achieved. If B12 intake is less than 6 micrograms, there is sand in the B12-works.

The researchers conclude with conviction:
”…our results, together with those of others, strongly suggest that the RDA of 2.4 micrograms/day should be increased.”
This can also been said about many other vitamins. Experience from recent years indicates that the recommendations for not only vitamin B12, but also vitamins C and E and the minerals selenium, chromium, and magnesium, should also be increased, and in some cases greatly increased. Increased intake of many of the other B vitamins as well as iodine should also be considered.

This is especially true about vitamin D, on which we at the Danish Vitality Counsel have focused. The recommended daily dosage of vitamin D should be doubled for those of us who live in northern climes.

The official recommendations have as a whole not followed developments in research, even though there are strong arguments for new recommendations. According to some, there is need for more evidence. But this is contrary to the supposition that new recommendations could prevent serious chronic disease.

The dilemma is strengthened by the fact that it is difficult or impossible to get higher doses of vitamins and minerals though our modern diet. Some suggest that it might be possible with a Stone Age diet, but we surely will not have another Stone Age.

By: Vitality Council

1. Mustafa Vakar Bor et al. A daily intake of approximately 6 {micro}g vitamin B-12 appears to saturate all the vitamin B-12-related variables in Danish postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jan;83(1):52-8.
2. Zouë Lloyd-Wright et al. Holotranscobalamin as an Indicator of Dietary Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Clinical Chemistry 49: 2076-2078, 2003;10.1373/clinchem.2003.020743.

Vitamin B12 And Folic Acid Reduce The Risk Of Blood Clots In The Brain

October 31, 2005

After Americans enriched their diet with folic acid in 1996, the frequency of blood clots in the brain was reduced by 15%. Now research shows that added supplementation of Vitamin B12 will markedly lower this risk even further.

Immediately, it sounds simple: People with high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood have an increased risk of blood clots in the brain and in the heart. You also know that you can lower homocysteine with folic acid and, to a lesser extent, with B6 and B12 vitamins. When the Americans began to enrich cereal products with folic acid from 1996, both the average American’s homocysteine and the rate of blood clot in the brain decreased by about 15% in three years.

“The money fits”, and then the result is almost obvious in advance, if you want to conduct a lottery experiment, where every other participant gets folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins. Of course, they get fewer blood clots in the brain.

But the reality is more varied. In Norway, such an experiment (NORVIT) was conducted with 3,750 patients who had just survived a blood clot in the heart. For 3.5 years, they were supplemented with either folic acid (0.8 mg), vitamin B6 (40 mg), both or blind tablets (placebo). Among those who only received folic acid, mortality decreased approx. 10%, but not statistically certain. But in the other two groups the death tolls were increased, not statistically certain either.

Perhaps it is too late to start taking supplements when you are already severely calcified. Or, as will appear, perhaps it was more decisive that the Norwegians “forgot” to give the participants vitamin B12.

An experiment has also been carried out in the USA (VISP). It was with people who had recovered from a blood clot in the brain, but had an increased risk of a new one. Admittedly, the Americans did not initially find any effect either. Supplementation of folic acid (2.5 mg), vitamin B6 (25 mg) and vitamin B12 (0.4 mg) did not reduce or improve mortality or risk of blood clots in the brain. Therefore, the experiment was simply stopped after two years. It was useless, they thought.

B12 is useful if it is absorbed
A close explanation could be the aforementioned enrichment of cereal products with folic acid. After all, the average homocysteine had already fallen by approx. 15% in the Americans. During the trial, it only dropped a further 2%.

But the Americans have since studied the numbers more closely. In doing so, they discovered one important source of error in particular: Many of the 3,680 elderly participants had reduced absorption of vitamin B12 from the gut and therefore had relatively little B12 in their blood (less than 250 pmol/l). This is often seen in the elderly, and it is now known that these elderly need supplements of at least 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day. But the participants had only received 400.

What would it look like if you now disregarded these participants and concentrated on those with normal B12 uptake? It was decided to investigate. At the same time, participants with reduced kidney function were disregarded, as they also respond sluggishly to these supplements. Finally, participants who were previously receiving medical treatment with B12 were naturally disregarded.

There remained 2,155 people who had no problems absorbing B12. In this large group, the supplements both lowered homocysteine further and reduced the overall risk of death, blood clot in the heart or blood clot in the brain – by 21%! The treatment helped anyway; even a lot when the ability to absorb B12 was intact.

As stated, it appears that the fortification of cereal products with folic acid has reduced the Americans’ risk of blood clots in the brain by approx. 15%. Now it seems that a solid supplement of vitamin B12 on top of that can reduce it significantly more – but the many elderly people, who absorb vitamin B12 poorly, presumably need larger supplements.

This is the result at the moment. It must be verified before it is approved. But the indications are there.

By: Vitality Council

1. Toole JF, et al. Lowering homocysteine in patients with ischemic stroke to prevent recurrent stroke, myocardial infarction, and death: the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004 Feb 4;291(5):565-75.
2. Bonaa KH. NORVIT: Randomized trial of homocysteine-lowering with B-vitamins for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease after acute myocardial infarction. Program and Abstracts from the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2005; September 3-7, 2005; Stockholm, Sweden. Hot Line II. Iflg. Linda Brooks. NORVIT: The norwegian vitamin trial. Medscape sept. 2005. (Ikke publiceret i trykt medie)
3. Spence DJ et al. Vitamin intervention for stroke prevention trial. An efficacy analysis. Stroke 2005;36:2404-2409.

You Must Plug The Hole Before The Boat Sinks

October 11, 2005

A Norwegian study has shown that if you have already experienced an acute myocardial infarction, the risk of another such infarction will not be reduced by taking folic acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12, even if homocysteine levels are lowered thereby.
If you get a great deal of folic acid, the blood content of the amino acid homocysteine will be relatively low. So much is certain. When the content is low, the risk of blood clots in the heart or brain hemorrrhage – other things being equal – is also low. It is also safe, but both are statistics only.

With these facts in the bag, one is tempted to think that supplementation with folic acid must be a good idea. As you know, folic acid is the B vitamin that young women should take to avoid having children with spina bifida. One can agree with the American Heart Association, which advises everyone to get 0.4 mg of folic acid a day, the same dose that women should take as a supplement.

In Tromsø in Norway, the so-called NORVIT trial (Norwegian Vitamin Trial) was the first to test whether supplements also help heart patients who have already had a blood clot in the heart. If the media is to be believed, it ended with a scare.

The results, which were presented in September at this year’s congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), led directly to warnings against folic acid in the press: B vitamins could be dangerous for heart patients, it said, and our own Danish heart association was quick to announce, that folic acid is “still” not recommended for heart patients – even though the month before was said something close to the opposite.

But, as is so often the case, the reports were misleading. Strictly speaking, the Norwegian trial did not show that folic acid is dangerous. If you want to argue that it showed anything at all, it was that the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death decreased—albeit by only a few percent—in those who took 0.8 milligrams of folic acid a day for 3.5 years . However, this was not statistically certain.

The fact is that there were in fact not one, but three trials, with a total of 3,750 people, all of whom had had blood clots in the heart. One showed that a combination of folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 led to approx. 20% more cases of blood clots in the heart than placebo (cheat pills). The second – the only one where only folic acid was used – showed no difference in reality. There was also no difference in the third trial, where the participants only received vitamin B6.

In one area, the experiments turned out to be successful: those who received folic acid achieved a drop in the blood homocysteine content of approx. 30%. Enough so that one could hope for a nice drop in the number of new blood clots. Which did not appear.

But the questions arise: Is it appropriate for heart patients to be careful about taking folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 at the same time?
Or are we talking about completely different anatomical conditions with secondary prophylaxis than there are with primary prophylaxis? After all, you have had a blood clot.

Also at the congress, the ESC’s designated commentator, Ian Graham, doubted the result. He believed that the experiment might have been too small and too complicated to be credible.

One can go a step further and think that the result is purely due to chance. In any case, it is not supported by any theory.
It is more likely that folic acid is simply not suitable for preventing blood clots in severely arteriosclerotic patients. – In other words secondary prophylaxis.

There is a lot of evidence that folic acid – and low homocysteine – slows the development of atherosclerosis in healthy people – i.e. primary prophylaxis. But the usefulness of this function diminishes when the calcification is already very advanced. The bottom plug must be inserted before the boat is sunk.

If folic acid is to prevent blood clots, you probably have to start in good time. On the other hand, the vitamin has other benefits. Among other things. experiments convincingly indicate that it helps to keep the brain young, even in the elderly.

By: Vitality Council

Bonaa KH. NORVIT: Randomized trial of homocysteine-lowering with B-vitamins for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease after acute myocardial infarction. Program and Abstracts from the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2005; September 3-7, 2005; Stockholm, Sweden. Hot Line II. Iflg. Linda Brooks. NORVIT: The Norwegian vitamin trial. Medscape Sept. 2005. (Not published in a printed media).

Vegetables And Dietary Supplementation Protect Against Alzheimer’s

August 30, 2005

Elderly persons who get adequate amounts of folic acid have a 55% reduced risk of getting dementia induced by Alzheimer’s disease, says an American study.

Lack of the B vitamin folic acid is probably the most common deficiency in Denmark. Too few people manage to chew the 2-300 grams of green vegetables that are needed every day if they want the recommended 0.3 mg from the diet. In the United States, 0.4 mg is recommended, but here grain products are legally enriched with folic acid.

By: Vitality Council

1. Corrada MM. et al. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2005;1:11-18.
2. Fuso A. et al. S-adenosylmethionine/homocysteine cycle alterations modify DNA methylation status with consequent deregulation of PS1 and BACE and beta-amyloid production. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2005 Jan;28(1):195-204.
3. Quadri P. et al. Homocysteine, folate and vitamin B12 in mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer disease aqmd vascular dementia. Am J Clin Nutr 2004,80:114-22

Vitamin B6 Acts Against Colon Cancer

June 14, 2005

Alcohol increases the risk of several types of cancer. This may be because alcohol disturbs certain essential metabolic processes. But vitamin B6 and folic acid appear to repair the damage caused by alcohol, thereby restoring those processes.

If you allow yourself 1-2 glasses of red wine a day, you probably prolong life and help yourself against arteriosclerosis. It is a known matter. At the same time, however, it increases the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. It is also a known matter. Less well-known is that this disadvantage apparently can be eliminated with the B vitamins folic acid and vitamin B6. When alcohol is a cancer risk, it may be because alcohol interferes with the processes that the two vitamins are involved in.

By: Vitality Council

1. Larsson SC, Giovannucci E, Wolk A. Vitamin B6 intake, alcohol consumption, and colorectal cancer: a longitudinal population-based cohort of women. Gastroenterology. 2005 Jun;128(7):1830-7.
2. Eunyoung Cho et al. Alcohol intake and colorectal cancer: A pooled analysis of 8 cohort studies. Annals of Internal Medicine 2004;140:603-13.

Folic Acid Lowers Blood Pressure and Prevents Blood Clots

April 19, 2005

While folic acid lowers blood pressure, the dose must be large enough to have this effect. Diet alone will not provide a significantly large enough dose, so it is essential to take folic acid as a supplement. The vitamin also simultaneously protects the heart and brain against blood clots.

It has long been documented that the B vitamin, folic acid, prevents the birth defect Spina bifida. For eight years, Canada has fortified all flour with folic acid and has thus prevented 80% of these sad cases. Enrichment is also required in the United States, but in Denmark, expectant mothers must manage on their own. It’s their own problem to find out to take a supplement – before they get pregnant!

By: Vitality Council

1. Forman JP, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. Folate intake and the risk of incident hypertension among US women. JAMA. 2005 Jan 19;293(3):320-9.
2. American Heart Association’s 44th annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
3. Endres M, Ahmadi M, Kruman I, Biniszkiewicz D, Meisel A, Gertz K. Folate deficiency increases postischemic brain injury. Stroke. 2005 Feb;36(2):321-5. Epub 2004 Dec 29.
4. Taivani A et al. Folate and vitamin B6 intake and risk of acute myocardial infarct in Italy. Eur J Clin Nutr 2004;58:1266-72.
5. Al-Delaimy WK, Rexrode KM, Hu FB, Albert CM, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Manson JE. Folate intake and risk of stroke among women. Stroke. 2004 Jun;35(6):1259-63.
6. Casas JP et al. Homocysteine and stroke: Evidence on a causal link from mendelian randomisation. The Lancet 2005;365: 224-32.
7. Klerk M, Verhoef P, Clarke R, Blom HJ, Kok FJ, Schouten EG; MTHFR Studies Collaboration Group. MTHFR 677C– T polymorphism and risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2002 Oct 23-30;288(16):2023-31.
8. S Schwammenthal et al. Homocysteine, B-vitamin supplementation, and stroke prevention. From observational to interventional trials. Lancet Neurol. 2004;3(8):493.

Deficiency in B-vitamin Causes Dementia

April 18, 2005

According to one American study, folic acid weakens the memory of the elderly. According to another study, the opposite happens. Nearly all studies, however, indirectly indicate that folic acid prevents both arteriosclerosis and dementia.

It is a well-known fact that the B-vitamin folic acid prevents congenital neural tube defects. However, it can also lower the blood’s content of homocysteine; a biproduct in human metabolism that promotes atherosclerosis, among other things. Having an increased level of homocysteine is just as dangerous as cholesterol: Up to 40% of all individuals with premature atherosclerosis have increased blood levels of homocysteine.

The fact that homocysteine also damages the brain is indicated by more than 20 different studies. It has been found with almost unerring certainty that demented old people have more homocysteine in their blood than others and that the ones who score highest on memory tests are the ones with the least homocysteine in their blood. This is a clear argument for taking folic acid.

However, completely unexpectedly, a fly in the ointment has now appeared. A study at Rush University in Chicago has shown that the exact opposite might be the case. If you are elderly and you get more than the typical 0.4mg. of folic acid a day, your memory will decline more rapidly.

A total of 3,718 trial subjects over 65 years of age were followed for five to six years after having reported their eating habits. They were then mentally tested three times during the course of the 5 – 6 years. The results were the same whether they got folic acid from their diet or from dietary supplements: In the people taking folic acid, memory declined more rapidly than in the others.

Are these results the result of a coincidence? Anyhow, it does make you wonder that the 20% who got the most folic acid (0.7 mg. a day) did far better on the mental tests than the rest. Granted, their memory deteriorated more rapidly, but they obviously had a better memory to begin with. Why was that so, if folic acid is actually harmful?

In addition to this, doctors from the UCLA in February 2005 published results stating the exact opposite. Among 499 well-functioning 70 – 79 year-olds, most folic acid was found in the blood of the ones who had the best memory. And equally importantly: Seven years later, they were in better posession of all their faculties.

No explanation
What is true, then? If the truth lies in the Chicago study, it might be based on the co-operation between vitamin B12 and folic acid. Both vitamins reduce blood levels of homocysteine and the major task of both of them is to produce small, chemical units – which only contain a single carbon atom – for building other molecules.

Folic acid delivers its units to vitamin B12 which are then further delivered to – homocysteine. In this way, homocysteine is neutralized and is transformed into a harmless amino acid and the blood level of homocysteine will drop.

Whether you lack vitamin B12, folic acid, or both, the transport of the single-carbon units will be complicated. In all three cases, the result will be a specific type of anaemia (pernicious anaemia) which is characterized by the red blood cells being abnormally large.

However, the symptoms in vitamin B12 deficiency and folic acid deficiency are not quite similar. In folic acid deficiency, neuritis – i.e. nerve damage – will not occur. In vitamin B12 deficiency, it will. The anaemia in vitamin B12 deficiency can be removed by taking folic acid, but the neuritis cannot. Vitamin B12 has an affect on nervous tissue that folic acid cannot imitate.

In up to 30% of all elderly people, vitamin B12 deficiency can be demonstrated. Imagine large amounts of folic acid enhancing the B12 deficiency in the nervous system by blocking the small amounts of vitamin B12 with single-carbon compounds. This could correlate to another finding in the Chicago study: Memory declined by 25% less in the ones with the largest consumption of vitamin B12.

The leader of the study, Martha Clare Morris, believes that folic acid might mask the very common vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly. This is more or less the same thing. In both cases, the consequence should be that the elderly get more vitamin B12 and not less folic acid which can have a protective effect in other areas.

This is the message – that is if you do not choose to believe that the new finding is a coincidence and that the truth is the exact opposite – which is actually also quite likely!

For the time being, however, Morris’ conclusion is simple: “We don’t know yet what is going on,” she says.

Up to every third elderly person may have demonstrable signs of mild vitamin B12 deficiency. If the results of the Chicago study are truthful, elderly persons possibly should not reduce their folic acid intake but rather focus on getting enough vitamin B12.

By: Vitality Council

1. Morris MC et al. Dietary folate and vitamin B12 and cognitive decline among community-dwelling older persons. Arch Neurol 2005;62:641-5
2. Austin RC et al. Role of hyperhomocysteinemia in endothelial dysfunction and atherthrombotic disease. Cell Death and Differentiation 2004;11:S56-S64
3. Morris MS. Homocysteine and Alzheimers disease. Lancet Neurol 2003;2:425-8
4. Kado DM et al. Homocysteine versus the vitamins folate, B6, and B12 as predictors of cognitive function and decline in older high-functioning adults: Mac Arthur Studies of Successfull Aging. Am J Med 2005;118:161-7
5. Garcia A et al. Homocysteine and cognitive function in elderly people. CMAJ, Oct. 12, 2004; 171 (8).