Why are Oxford University and Alzheimer’s Research UK trying to discredit B vitamins?

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