Alzheimer's advance

September 11, 1998

Alzheimer's disease could be treated successfully by vitamin supplements, according to preliminary work by researchers at the University of Oxford. They plan to conduct clinical trials that could confirm their hypothesis.

"The fact that Alzheimer's disease is a true disease means that if we can identify the causes, it will eventually be possible to treat it and perhaps to prevent it," said David Smith, head of pharmacology at the university.

His team of researchers has found elevated levels of homocysteine in serum from people who later died from Alzheimer's or who are suspected of having the disease, which is confirmed only after death. These people also had significantly lower levels of vitamin B12 and serum folate.

The patients with the highest levels of homocysteine declined the most rapidly over the three years that they were monitored.

"Elevated serum homocysteine levels can be reduced by dietary supplementation with vitamin B12 and folic acid," said Professor Smith. "In theory it might be possible to prevent some Alzheimer's cases from developing if elevated homocysteine is a cause."

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