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Cambridge University Science Magazine
The Californian Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging (SALSA), involving nearly 1,800 Hispanic volunteers aged 60 to 101, has investigated the specific effect of B vitamins on brain degeneration since 1996. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritionist Lindsay H. Allen, who also collaborated in the study, SALSA's research is necessary because many previous studies of B vitamins and brain function have given inconsistent or conflicting results.

The B vitamin folate was found to be particularly significant in cognitive decline. An analysis of participants' blood samples and their respective performances in various tests indicated that lower levels of folate were associated with symptoms of dementia and poor brain function. In women, folate has also been linked to symptoms of depression, which is already linked to poorer neural performance. Female volunteers whose plasma folate levels were in the lowest third were more than twice as likely to have symptoms of depression as volunteers in the highest third. These findings were detected even though less than 1 percent of volunteers were actually deficient in folate.

SALSA also determined that a protein known as holoTC, which is formed when vitamin B-12 is processed in the body, could form the basis of a new method to detect cognitive decline earlier and with greater accuracy than current techniques allow.

These and other findings have been published by SALSA in various journals, including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, since 2003.

Written by Katy Wei