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Dementia: The vitamin deficiency that could put you at a 68% higher risk – the BMJ study

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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However, the road to new treatments has been a challenging one.

Dementia remains the UK’s biggest killer with 67,000 people dying every year from the condition.

To put this into perspective, the London Olympic Stadium has a capacity of 60,000 people.

Even at full capacity, there would still be 7,000 people without seats; this is the scale of the challenge facing the scientific community.

It is one that must be scaled soon, recent statistics suggest one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime.

In the meantime, as well as trying to develop dementia treatments, scientists are also trying to work out what can put someone at increased or decreased risk of dementia.

According to a report published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) a deficiency of folate in the blood could be linked to an increased likelihood of dementia.

Also known as vitamin B9, folate is used by the body to form health red blood cells and reduce the risks of birth defects.

Research published in the journal Evidence Based Mental Health concluded: “Concentrations of folate may function as a biomarker used to identify those at risk of dementia and mortality.”

However, the authors said further research was needed to “examine the role of folate deficiency in dementia.”

A deficiency in folate leads to a condition known as folate deficiency anaemia.

Symptoms of a folate deficiency that can occur are:
• Reduced sense of taste
• Diarrhoea
• Numbness and tingling in the feet and hands
• Muscle weakness
• Depression.
• Symptoms related to anaemia.

A folate deficiency is closely related to vitamin B12 anaemia, also known as a vitamin B12 deficiency.

The NHS say a patient should see their GP if they’re “experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia”.

It is crucial for a potential vitamin B12 or folate deficiency to be diagnosed efficiently as these conditions can lead to severe complications.

Complications of a folate deficiency include infertility, cardiovascular disease, cancer, problems in childbirth, neural tube defects, and folic acid.

While some of these complications are treatable, the NHS say the resulting infertility “can usually be reversed with folate supplements”, some can be life changing or permanent.

Studies have shown a folate deficiency can increase a person’s risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, both fatal if not treated effectively.

One of the best methods of treating folate is through dietary changes.

Broccoli, asparagus, and brown rice are all examples of foods high in folate.

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