Folic Acid :: Folic acid and folate supplements improve cognitive function

Folic acid and folate supplements can boost the cognitive powers among older adults. Researchers in Holland say that the powers attributed to folic acid supplements regarding their ability to increase the powers of cognition among older adults are real.

Cognition — the internal structures and processes that are involved in the acquisition and use of knowledge, including sensation, perception, attention, learning, memory, language, thinking, and reasoning.

Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin essential in the human diet. It is an important cofactor in the synthesis of DNA and RNA of dividing cells, particularly during pregnancy and infancy when there is an increase in cell division and growth.

Folic acid is also known as folate, or folacin. It is one of the nutrients most often found to be deficient in the Western diet, and there is evidence that deficiency is a problem on a worldwide scale. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas and lentils, liver, beets, brussel sprouts, poultry, nutritional yeast, tuna, wheat germ, mushrooms, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupes. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched bread and grain products to boost intake and to help prevent neural tube defects (NTD).

The results of the study, published in the January 20, 2007, issue of Lancet conclude that folic acid can actually enhance brain function, vis a vis cognition, in certain categories of people. Among older adults with elevated levels of blood homocysteine, 3 years of folic acid supplementation improves cognitive function to levels generally seen in people several years younger, results of a Dutch study suggest.

Low folate levels are believed to be one of several modifiable risk factors for age-related cognitive decline, lead author Dr. Jane Durga, currently with the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, and her associates in the Netherlands note in their paper, published in The Lancet.

Delayed memory — which the authors point out is the most clinically relevant measure of cognitive performance — was improved by folate to match the performance of a person nearly 7 years younger.

The researchers point out that people with high homocysteine levels are more likely to benefit than those with low levels.