Vitamin regimen may stave off Alzheimer's

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LONDON -- A cheap regimen of vitamins in use for decades is seen by scientists as a way to delay the start of Alzheimer's disease and dementia, a goal that prescription drugs have failed to achieve.

In the latest of a steady drumbeat of research that suggests diet, exercise and socializing remain patients' best hope, a study published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that vitamins B6 and B12 combined with folic acid slowed atrophy of gray matter in brain areas affected by Alzheimer's disease.

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As people live longer, the number afflicted by the disease is growing. Delaying dementia with an inexpensive vitamin regimen may help stem an expected surge in cases, which the World Health Organization predicted would more than triple from 36 million worldwide in 2010 to 115 million in 2050.

In the PNAS study, researchers tracked 156 people ages 70 and older who had mild memory loss and high levels of a protein previously linked to dementia. Among people with elevated homocysteine, the study found that the amount of gray matter declined 5.2 percent in those taking a placebo, compared with just 0.6 percent in those who took the vitamins.

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