Folic acid supplementation may substantially improve cognitive function for older adults, according to an Article in this week's Lancet.
Cognitive function declines with age, especially cognitive domains related to information processing speed and memory. Such changes in cognitive function have been linked to risk of dementia in old age. Previous studies have suggested that low folate and raised homocysteine concentrations in the blood are important risk factors associated with poor cognitive performance.
In the Folic Acid and Carotid Intima-media Thickness (FACIT) trial, Jane Durga (Wageningen University and Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences, Netherlands) and colleagues randomly assigned 818 participants 800 micrograms daily oral folic acid supplementation or placebo for 3 years. They found that cognitive functions such as memory and information processing speed improved in adults given folic acid compared with placebo.
The authors conclude: "We have shown that 3-year folic acid supplementation improves performance on tests that measure information processing speed and memory, domains that are known to decline with age. [Our study was conducted] in older adults with raised total homocysteine concentrations... Trials similar to our own should be repeated in other populations to provide greater insight into the clinical relevance of folic acid supplementation, such as in populations with mild cognitive impairment and dementia."