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Cognitive impairment and vitamin B12: a review

International Psychogeriatrics

Cambridge University Press (CUP)

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ABSTRACT

Background: This review examines the associations between low vitamin B12 levels, neurodegenerative disease, and cognitive impairment. The potential impact of comorbidities and medications associated with vitamin B12 derangements were also investigated. In addition, we reviewed the evidence as to whether vitamin B12 therapy is efficacious for cognitive impairment and dementia.

Methods: A systematic literature search identified 43 studies investigating the association of vitamin B12 and cognitive impairment or dementia. Seventeen studies reported on the efficacy of vitamin B12 therapy for these conditions.

Results: Vitamin B12 levels in the subclinical low-normal range (<250 ρmol/L) are associated with Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson's disease. Vegetarianism and metformin use contribute to depressed vitamin B12 levels and may independently increase the risk for cognitive impairment. Vitamin B12 deficiency (<150 ρmol/L) is associated with cognitive impairment. Vitamin B12 supplements administered orally or parenterally at high dose (1 mg daily) were effective in correcting biochemical deficiency, but improved cognition only in patients with pre-existing vitamin B12 deficiency (serum vitamin B12 levels <150 ρmol/L or serum homocysteine levels >19.9 μmol/L).

Conclusion: Low serum vitamin B12 levels are associated with neurodegenerative disease and cognitive impairment. There is a small subset of dementias that are reversible with vitamin B12 therapy and this treatment is inexpensive and safe. Vitamin B12 therapy does not improve cognition in patients without pre-existing deficiency. There is a need for large, well-resourced clinical trials to close the gaps in our current understanding of the nature of the associations of vitamin B12 insufficiency and neurodegenerative disease.

Most cited references73

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Folate, vitamin B12, and serum total homocysteine levels in confirmed Alzheimer disease.

(1998)
Recent studies suggest that vascular disease may contribute to the cause of Alzheimer disease (AD). Since elevated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) level is a risk factor for vascular disease, it may also be relevant to AD. To examine the association of AD with blood levels of tHcy, and its biological determinants folate and vitamin B12. Case-control study of 164 patients, aged 55 years or older, with a clinical diagnosis of dementia of Alzheimer type (DAT), including 76 patients with histologically confirmed AD and 108 control subjects. Referral population to a hospital clinic between July 1988 and April 1996. Serum tHcy, folate, and vitamin B12 levels in patients and controls at entry; the odds ratio of DAT or confirmed AD with elevated tHcy or low vitamin levels; and the rate of disease progression in relation to tHcy levels at entry. Serum tHcy levels were significantly higher and serum folate and vitamin B12 levels were lower in patients with DAT and patients with histologically confirmed AD than in controls. The odds ratio of confirmed AD associated with a tHcy level in the top third (> or = 14 micromol/L) compared with the bottom third (< or = 11 micromol/L) of the control distribution was 4.5 (95% confidence interval, 2.2-9.2), after adjustment for age, sex, social class, cigarette smoking, and apolipoprotein E epsilon4. The corresponding odds ratio for the lower third compared with the upper third of serum folate distribution was 3.3 (95% confidence interval, 1.8-6.3) and of vitamin B12 distribution was 4.3 (95% confidence interval, 2.1-8.8). The mean tHcy levels were unaltered by duration of symptoms before enrollment and were stable for several years afterward. In a 3-year follow-up of patients with DAT, radiological evidence of disease progression was greater among those with higher tHcy levels at entry. Low blood levels of folate and vitamin B12, and elevated tHcy levels were associated with AD. The stability of tHcy levels over time and lack of relationship with duration of symptoms argue against these findings being a consequence of disease and warrant further studies to assess the clinical relevance of these associations for AD.
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2011 Alzheimer's disease facts and figures.

(2011)
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the sixth leading cause of all deaths in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of death in Americans aged ≥65 years. Although other major causes of death have been on the decrease, deaths because of AD have been rising dramatically. Between 2000 and 2008 (preliminary data), heart disease deaths decreased by 13%, stroke deaths by 20%, and prostate cancer-related deaths by 8%, whereas deaths because of AD increased by 66%. An estimated 5.4 million Americans have AD; approximately 200,000 people aged <65 years with AD comprise the younger-onset AD population. Every 69 seconds, someone in America develops AD; by 2050, the time is expected to accelerate to every 33 seconds. Over the coming decades, the baby boom population is projected to add 10 million people to these numbers. In 2050, the incidence of AD is expected to approach nearly a million people per year, with a total estimated prevalence of 11 to 16 million people. Dramatic increases in the numbers of "oldest-old" (those aged ≥85 years) across all racial and ethnic groups will also significantly affect the numbers of people living with AD. In 2010, nearly 15 million family and other unpaid caregivers provided an estimated 17 billion hours of care to people with AD and other dementias, a contribution valued at more than $202 billion. Medicare payments for services to beneficiaries aged ≥65 years with AD and other dementias are almost 3 times higher than for beneficiaries without these conditions. Total payments in 2011 for health care, long-term care, and hospice services for people aged ≥65years with AD and other dementias are expected to be$183 billion (not including the contributions of unpaid caregivers). This report provides information to increase understanding of the public health effect of AD, including incidence and prevalence, mortality, health expenditures and costs of care, and effect on caregivers and society in general. The report also examines the current state of AD detection and diagnosis, focusing on the benefits of early detection and the factors that present challenges to accurate diagnosis. Copyright © 2011 The Alzheimer's Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Meta-analysis of Alzheimer's disease risk with obesity, diabetes, and related disorders.

Late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a multifactorial and heterogeneous disorder with major risk factors including advanced age, presence of an apolipoprotein E epsilon4 (APOE4) allele, and family history of AD. Other risk factors may be obesity and diabetes and related disorders, which are highly prevalent. We reviewed longitudinal epidemiological studies of body mass, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and glucose and insulin levels on risk for AD. We conducted meta-analyses of the results from these studies. For obesity assessed by body mass index, the pooled effect size for AD was 1.59 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02-2.5; z = 2.0; p = .042), and for diabetes, the pooled effect size for AD was 1.54 (95% CI 1.33-1.79; z = 5.7; p < .001). Egger's test did not find significant evidence for publication bias in the meta-analysis for obesity (t = -1.4, p = .21) or for diabetes (t = -.86, p = .42). Since these disorders are highly comorbid, we conducted a meta-analysis combining all studies of obesity, diabetes, and abnormal glucose or insulin levels, which yielded a highly significant pooled effect size for AD of 1.63 (95% CI 1.39-1.92; z = 5.9; p < .001). Obesity and diabetes significantly and independently increase risk for AD. Though the level of risk is less than that with the APOE4 allele, the high prevalence of these disorders may result in substantial increases in future incidence of AD. Physiological changes common to obesity and diabetes plausibly promote AD. Published by Elsevier Inc.
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Author and article information

Journal
International Psychogeriatrics
Int. Psychogeriatr.
Cambridge University Press (CUP)
1041-6102
1741-203X
April 2012
January 06 2012
April 2012
: 24
: 4
: 541-556
Article
10.1017/S1041610211002511
22221769