Researchers at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, examined the effect of taking folic acid, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6 on cognitive change in women with cardiovascular disease or risk factors cardiovascular disease.

First, the details.

  • 5442 female health professionals with at least 3 coronary risk factors were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
  • They tested the effect of different combinations of B vitamins (2.5 mg folic acid/day, 50 mg vitamin B-6/day, and 1 mg vitamin B-12/day).
  • Testing of cognitive function was conducted over the phone up to 4 times over 5.4 years using 5 tests of general cognition, verbal memory, and category fluency.
    • Cognitive function includes “thinking”, “feeling”, “sensing,” and “intuition.”

And, the results.

  • Over the time of the study, cognitive change from baseline did not differ between the B vitamin and placebo groups.
  • However, the results suggest that supplementation with B vitamins may have helped preserve cognition among women with a low dietary intake of B vitamins at the start of the study.
    • The cutoff for a “low” intake of vitamin B-6 was 1.9 mg/day and for folate 279 grams/day.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Combined B vitamin supplementation did not delay cognitive decline among women with cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular disease risk factors. The possible cognitive benefits of supplementation among women with a low dietary intake of B vitamins warrant further study.”

Only in the small segment of the population who have low dietary intakes of folate, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12 might taking these supplements help preserve cognitive function.

12/3/11 10:36 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.