Last month I told you in a blog about the research of Robert Clarke et al, who did a trial that (a) excluded anyone with any memory problem or risk, (b) used the wrong memory test, (c) did not disclose the difference between the B vitamin group and the placebo group, and (d) did not select those with raised homocysteine (above 10mcmol/l) for whom a direct benefit of reduced brain shrinkage and reduced rate of memory loss has been consistently reported, despite measuring the homocysteine levels of the participants.
In other words, this study was an appalling example of biased science, to the extent that it seems to have been engineered to cast doubt on B vitamins and hold up action on prevention. An analogy would be to test the effect of giving hypertensive medication to people who don't have high blood pressure then declaring that hypertensive medication doesn’t work.
So, why did the Oxford University press office see fit to promote it to all the press this week and why did they let Robert Clarke state: ‘It would have been very nice to have found something different. Our study draws a line under the debate: B vitamins don’t reduce cognitive decline as we age. Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 is sadly not going to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.’ The fact is that this study has no relevance at all to Alzheimer’s and breaks all the rules of transparency in relation to disclosing the study data.
To further propagate unfounded doubt, Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
‘Although one trial in 2010 showed that for people with high homocysteine, B vitamins had some beneficial effect on the rate of brain shrinkage, this comprehensive review of several trials shows that B vitamins have not been able to slow mental decline as we age, nor are they likely to prevent Alzheimer's.’ This is totally incorrect because a) there are many studies that show those with raised homocysteine have direct benefit from B vitamins and b) this study is incapable of drawing this conclusion for the reasons given above.
Alzheimer’s Research UK appears to be totally uninterested in funding prevention. An analysis of their total research funding up to November last year for the G8 summit shows that, of the more than £20 million they have spent, just £350,000 - that is 1.75% - was spent on prevention research. Bearing in mind ‘prevention research’ would also include a drug trial to lower a risk factor such as high blood pressure, this tiny proportion is entirely unjustifiable in the face of mounting evidence in favour of prevention strategies. It is now well established that half the risk for Alzheimer’s is preventable. So when is half the research money going to be spent on good quality prevention research?
This concerted effort to discredit the B vitamin effect, no matter how poor the science, can only do damage to those with raised homocysteine (half the elderly) by casting doubt, and can only serve the pharmaceutical industry interests. To see the evidence check out Plan B on foodforthebrain.org. For more information on how to prevent Alzheimer’s with diet and lifestyle changes, read my book The Alzheimer’s Prevention Plan
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I know you have informed us about MCT fats and specifically coconut fat anecdotally and Aluminium is there more on this in the new book.
Patrick Holford, 21 Aug 2014
Have you read my Report on coconut oil[https://www.patrickholford.com/advice/coconut-oil-can-it-help-protect-your-memory]? The latest edition of the Alzheimer's Prevention Plan also covers this, aluminium, and heavy metals. I doubt that these are primary causes of Alzheimer's however it is possible that coconut oil could alleviate symptoms for a period of time by helping dysfunctional cells run on ketones and not glucose. However, we need studies to test this. The case for aluminium as a contributory cause has got weaker. A recent Chinese study found that regions with elevated iron or copper levels in the soil had higher Alzheimers mortality, while areas with high aluminium soil levels did not. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25024310]
Matthew M, 21 Aug 2014
Radio 4 Inside Health has done a 3 part on Conflicted Medicine.
Patrick Holford, 21 Aug 2014
I am glad to hear it although I didn't catch this programme. I do find ARUK's position really strange since it was one of the funders for the Oxford studies that showed that B vitamins, given to those with elevated homocysteine, reduced rate of brain shrinkage and memory loss remarkably. The Clarke meta-analysis, which I dissected in my blog - https://www.patrickholford.com/blog/one-three-alzheimer-s-cases-preventable-now-says-expert-review - is such an appalling piece of science I am amazed as to how it got through peer-review. Expect some significant rebuttals from other experts in the journal.
Roland Ayers, 21 Aug 2014
All three of the Conflicted Medicine programmes are still available on the iplayer or to download as a free podcast. Click on 'Programmes' on the BBC Radio website and type in 'Inside Health'.
Matthew M, 19 Aug 2014
Maybe everybody reading should print these articles and leave them around all their local doctors and hospital outpatient waiting areas.
for the next 12 months.