The test, available from www.foodforthebrain.org, also tells you how to delay memory decline and possibly reduce Alzheimer’s risk, based on research of people with mild cognitive impairment, the stage before Alzheimer’s, by Oxford University experts Professor David Smith and Dr Celeste de Jager. Last year their research hit the headlines showing that those with a raised blood level of a toxic amino acid called homocysteine had accelerated brain shrinkage, but that significantly less shrinkage was seen by supplementing the diet with high doses of specific B vitamins - B6 (20mg), folic acid (800mcg) and B12 (500mcg) for two years. “Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease, not an inevitable part of the ageing process. Rather than leaving it until too late, the trick is to identify any decline in memory function as early as possible and take the necessary prevention steps”, says leading Oxford University expert Professor David Smith.
The free Cognitive Function Test is designed for people aged 50 to 70 and gives you an instant result. It’s an interactive test that’s fun to do and takes about 15 minutes to complete. It measures three critical functions that are early predictors of future risk for Alzheimer’s. If you do score below par the website recommends you have your blood homocysteine level tested and gives you a letter for your GP. Some medical conditions also affect memory so a visit to your GP to check for these is advisable. (You can also do it yourself with a home-test kit from www.yorktest.com - £99). You’ll also get advice of the top tips for keeping your memory sharp and reducing the risk for Alzheimer’s.
Research shows that poor diet and lifestyle habits are linked to memory decline and the risk of Alzheimer’s. Three in ten over age 70 have impaired memory, and potentially 75% of these will develop Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia within 5 years. But for many this could be avoidable by early cognitive screening and homocysteine testing followed by B vitamin supplementation if indicated. “Only about one in a hundred cases of Alzheimer’s is caused by genes. As long as decline in memory function is identified early, research has shown that a combination of specific B vitamins, dietary and lifestyle changes, can greatly reduce the rate at which your brain shrinks, and your memory worsens.” says Professor Smith.
The Oxford study showed that the higher the homocysteine level the greater was the rate of brain shrinkage, and the rate of brain shrinkage was strongly predictive of memory test performance, with performance being worse in those with most brain shrinkage. B vitamins reduced the rate of brain shrinkage in people with high homocysteine levels by an average of 53%1. Consequently we expect that memory performance could be maintained, rather than decline, in those whose homocysteine levels are lowered to normal levels with B vitamin supplements. “The earlier we can identify, and treat those at risk the greater the chances of preventing Alzheimer’s, and further trials are needed to test this.” says Professor David Smith. “That’s why it’s vital to screen for any loss of Cognitive Function as early as possible – even from age 50.”
GP Dr Andrew McCaddon welcomes the Cognitive Function Test. “People often struggle for three years or more with forgetfulness before they come to see me. As there is now good evidence for lowering elevated homocysteine levels with high dose B vitamins, I prescribe these to my patients and I have found significant clinical improvement from this approach. Early screening is the way forward.” If your homocysteine is high, the solution is simple – a daily B vitamin supplement providing B6 (20mg), folic acid (800mcg) and B12 (500mcg). While folic acid is found in greens, beans, nuts and seeds, and B12 in fish, eggs, meat and milk, these kinds of levels cannot be achieved by diet alone. The RDA for vitamin B12 is 1mcg – so the level shown to stop your brain shrinking is several hundred times more than what most people eat. The reason for such a high dose is that B12 becomes increasingly poorly absorbed as you age. Supplements containing these levels of B vitamins are available in health food shops. Eating more fish, learning new things and keeping physically and socially active also reduce risk2,3.
To find out more and take the test: visit the charity website www.foodforthebrain.org to assess your risk of memory decline. If you score is below par you'll be encouraged to get your homocysteine level tested by your GP, or privately (see www.yorktest.com). If you find that you have high levels of homocysteine, over 9.5μmol/L, then take: Step 2. Take specially formulated high dose B vitamin supplements containing B6, folic acid and B12 - at least 500mcg.