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The research showed that large doses of the supplement could halve the rate of brain shrinkage – a physical symptom associated memory loss and dementia in the elderly.
The effects were so dramatic that the scientists behind the work believe it could revolutionise the treatment of the disease.
Brain shrinkage or atrophy is a natural part of ageing but it is known to be accelerated in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) – a kind of memory loss and forgetfulness – and Alzheimer's.
Scientists at the University of Oxford conducted a trial on 168 people and found that taking high doses of three vitamin B supplements every day reduced brain shrinkage associated with dementia by up to 53 per cent.
They said the results were so strong that it should open up a debate as to whether the tablets should be prescribed to everyone with MCI – half of whom develop Alzheimer's disease.
It suggests simply taking vitamins can achieve results that have so far evaded pharmaceutical companies, despite millions of pounds being spent on experimental dementia drugs.
The brain naturally shrinks in volume as we get older and when you get to 60, it is shrinking by as much as half a per cent a year.
But in those with MCI it is accelerates to one per cent a year and in Alzheimer's Disease by 2.5 per cent a year. This is accompanied by severe memory problems, slower thoughts and confusion.
Over a period of two years, half were given a daily tablet containing high doses of the B vitamins folic acid, B6 and B12. The rest received a "dummy" placebo pill with no active ingredients.
At the end of the trial the effects of the vitamin treatment were found to be dramatic, and most pronounced in participants who started out with the highest rates of brain shrinkage.
On average, taking B vitamins slowed the rate of brain atrophy by 30 per cent, and in many cases reductions was as high as 53 per cent were seen.
Prof Smith said: "This is a very striking, dramatic result. It's much more than we could have predicted.
The B vitamins may be necessary in order to:
Support and increase the rate of metabolism
Maintain healthy skin and muscle tone
Enhance immune and nervous system function
Promote cell growth and division, including that of the red blood cells that help prevent anemia
Reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer - one of the most lethal forms of cancer - when consumed in food, but not when ingested in vitamin tablet form.