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Health News Archive 187 - Memory
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Low Homocysteine, High Folate Related to Increased Memory

In a recent study of nearly 2,200 people age 65 and older, researchers discovered that both elevated blood folate levels and decreased blood homocysteine levels were associated with better memory function. Results were published in the Anals of Neurology December 2005.

Researchers at Oxford University in England and in Norway examined the relation between plasma total homocysteine (tHcy), folate, vitamin B12, and episodic memory in elderly community-dwelling subjects. A population-based study was conducted in 1992 and 1993, and subjects were re-investigated after 6 years. Plasma analytes were determined on both occasions. At follow-up, memory performance, using the Kendrick Object Learning Test, was investigated in 2,189 subjects (age, 65-67 years at baseline).

Subjects with memory deficit (test score, <25) had higher homocysteine and lower folate at follow-up compared with those without memory deficit: 12.6 (95% confidence interval [CI], 12.1, 13.1) versus 11.5 (95% CI, 11.3, 11.6) mol/L (p < 0.001) for tHcy, and 6.7 (95% CI, 6.2, 7.1) versus 7.6 (95% CI, 7.5, 7.8) nmol/L (p < 0.001) for folate.

The risk of memory deficit increased according to quintiles of homocysteine both at baseline and at follow-up. A decline in homocysteine, or an increase in folate, over a 6-year period was associated with a higher memory test score; and vice versa. These findings indicate that increased plasma tHcy is an independent risk factor for memory deficit both cross-sectionally and prospectively, and that a favorable change in folate or homocysteine concentrations over time is associated with better memory performance.

Source: Plasma total homocysteine and memory in the elderly: The Hordaland Homocysteine study. Nurk, E., Refsum, H., Tell, G. S., Engedal, K., Vollset, S. E., Ueland, P. M., Nygaard, H. A., Smith, A. D., Annals of Neurology 2005 Dec;58(6):847-857.

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