IHN Database

Is Alzheimer's disease preventable?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. A high blood level of the sulfur-containing amino acid homocysteine is a potent risk factor for both stroke and cardiovascular disease. It has been estimated that exceeding normal levels (5-15 micromol/L) by as little as 5 micromol/L increases the risk of coronary artery disease by 60 per cent in men and 80 per cent in women.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine now provide convincing evidence that high homocysteine levels are an equally potent risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Their study involved 1092 men and women with an average age of 76 years who were deemed to be free of dementia when examined (as part of the Framingham Study) between 1986 and 1990. After an average eight years of follow-up 111 of the study participants had developed dementia of which 83 were given a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. The researchers found that people with a blood plasma homocysteine level above 14 micromol/L had nearly twice the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease as did people with lower levels. They also determined that a 5 micromol/L increase in homocysteine level corresponds to a 40 per cent increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Joseph Loscalzo, MD, in commenting on the findings, suggests that it may be possible to substantially reduce one's risk of Alzheimer's disease by supplementing with folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Such supplementation has, in numerous clinical trials, been found highly effective in lowering homocysteine levels.
Seshadri, Sudha, et al. Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, February 14, 2002, pp. 476-83 [56 references]
Loscalzo, Joseph. Homocysteine and dementias. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 346, February 14, 2002, pp. 466-68 (perspective)

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