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Folic Acid and Memory Loss: What You Should Know

National Folic Acid Awareness Week took place January 3 through 9 — what better time to explore the importance of folic acid in seniors’ diets than now? A lack of folic acid has been connected to a risk for memory loss or dementia later in life. If your loved one is facing hospice in Alameda County and elsewhere or suffers from dementia, you may be concerned that low folic acid intake may have been to blame. Let’s explore the connection between these two elements in further detail.

Folate, the synthetic form of which is called folic acid, is a water-soluble B vitamin long known for its cell-generation role. This is why it’s always been prescribed as part of prenatal vitamins for pregnant females, to aid in the development of the fetus and prevent birth defects. Recently, more and more studies are suggesting folic acid is also good for the health and well-being of adults. Folate has been found to protect against some cancers, prevent heart disorders and stroke, build muscle mass, form hemoglobin, and reduce the impact of mental and emotional disorders, says Improve Memory. Perhaps most interestingly, folic acid is also thought to slow down age-related memory and cognitive decline.

Folate (vitamin B-9) is vital for red blood cell formation as well as for healthy cell function and growth, points out the Mayo Clinic. You can get folic acid through a multivitamin or by eating dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and peas, as well as fruits such as lemons, oranges, bananas, strawberries, and melons. While studies are still being done, preliminary research suggests that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease could be linked to low folate levels and high homocysteine levels.

Low folate and high homocysteine concentrations have been associated with poor cognitive performance. One study showed high doses of folic acid administered to healthy people between 50 and 75 resulted in memory test scores similar to those five years younger, with cognitive speed scores similar to those two years younger. Researchers say this represents a significant level of brain protection due in part to the presence of folate.

Facts About Folate

  • Folic acid, a B vitamin used by the body to manufacture DNA, is necessary for rapid cell division and organ and tissue formation in developing babies.
  • The recommended daily intake of folate for adults is 400 micrograms.
  • Folic acid-rich foods include fortified breakfast cereals, bread, rice, pasta, orange juice; green vegetables, and legumes such as kidney, navy, lentil and garbanzo beans.
  • Folic acid intake is thought to lower risks related to stroke, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancer.
  • Folate-deficiency anemia, the lack of folic acid in the blood, results in low levels of folate. This often happens in pregnant women, those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, those who take certain medications (i.e., for seizures), and those with lower digestive tract conditions such as celiac disease.
  • Folic acid helps prevent major birth defects in a fetus’ brain and spine (i.e., anencephaly and spina bifida) by between 50 and 70 percent.
  • Folate keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy.

Facts About Memory Loss

  • The hippocampus is an area of the brain responsible for turning short-term memory into long-term memory.
  • The functionality of the hippocampus may decline with age.
  • The average person holds seven items in their short-term memory for only up to 30 seconds.
  • Taking tests is one of the best ways to improve recall.
  • You can learn how to improve memory. You can do this by taking mental pictures, using reminder apps on your phone, rehearsing information and employing strategies like mnemonics.
  • The main reason why we forget things is simply that we fail to retrieve information from memory, which happens when you rarely access memories. As a result, they can decay over time.
  • Another reason is due to interference, which happens when some memories compete with other memories.
  • Scent is a powerful trigger for memory.
  • Every time you create a memory, new brain connections are formed.

The subject of memory loss has long intrigued researchers. Because there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, scientists are constantly researching possible connections that can slow or prevent cognitive decline. The connection between low levels of folate and memory loss is a promising one, as a step in the right direction.

But while some studies do prove promising, the jury is still out on whether folic acid can indeed conclusively guard against memory loss. One Netherlands study found that participants taking folic acid supplements for years showed no significant boost in cognitive performance, says Healthline.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To learn more about our hospice program, contact us at 888-978-1306. We offer a variety of services, including hospice and bereavement support for patients and their families.