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November 2014

Folate Intake Linked to Memory Loss

A recent study suggests that low folate intake might increase the risk for memory loss or dementia later in life.

Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Folic acid is well-tolerated in amounts found in fortified foods and supplements. Folic acid supplements are effective for increasing folate levels in blood and decreasing symptoms associated with low folate levels. Dementia and Alzheimer's disease have been linked to low folate levels and high homocysteine levels. B vitamins, including folate, and the prevention of dementia are currently being studied. However, previous results are mixed.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 7,030 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study who did not have memory loss or dementia at the beginning of the study. Data on B vitamin intake was collected from 1993 to 1998 through questionnaires.

Throughout the average 5 year follow-up period, 238 cases of memory loss and 69 cases of dementia were identified. The researchers found that women who consumed folate levels below the recommended daily allowance at the beginning of the study had an increased risk of developing memory loss or dementia. However, there was no link between vitamin B-6 or B-12 and memory loss or dementia risk.

The authors concluded that low folate intake might increase the risk for memory loss or dementia later in life. However, additional research is necessary to further evaluate these findings.

For information about folate, please visit Natural Standard’s Food, Herbs & Supplements Database.

For information about integrative therapies for dementia, please visit Natural Standard’s Comparative Effectiveness Database.


  1. Agnew-Blais JC, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Kang JH, et al. Folate, Vitamin B-6, and Vitamin B-12 Intake and Mild Cognitive Impairment and Probable Dementia in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Sep 5.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.

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