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Memory and Cognitive Skills in the Aging

This is the first of a series of articles that will address a variety of news tidbits. While topics may not be related, they are all of great interest to many.

Article #1

Effect of 3-year Folic Acid Supplementation on Cognitive Function in Older Adults in the FACIT Trial

Journal and year in which it appeared: Lancet, 2007

Objective:
To assess the effect of 800 micrograms of daily folic acid supplementation on the cognitive performance of men and women aged 50-70 who were known to have an elevated serum level of homocysteine (an amino acid). The study lasted for 3 years.

Results:
Individuals in this trial who took folic acid supplementation had a statistically significant improvement in both their memory and information processing speed.

Conclusion:
Patients who have an elevated homocysteine level who take folic acid supplementation for 3 years saw an improvement in their cognitive function. However, as with all new regimens it is best to check with your physician first. All scientific study results cannot be extrapolated to everyone in the population.

Article #2

A Randomized Trial of Vitamin E Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Women

Journal and year in which it appeared: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006

Objective:
To assess whether vitamin E supplementation prevents a decline in cognitive function in older women

Results:
There was no statistically significant protection against a decline in cognitive function in healthy older women who supplemented their diet with vitamin E.

Conclusion:
Though some observational studies suggest that vitamin E may be of benefit in decreasing the rate of cognitive decline, this study, done on many thousands of women did not show a benefit.


Article #3

Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Adults

Journal and year in which it appeared:
J Gerontology A Biological Sciences Med Sci, 2006

Objective:
To compare change in brain volume between older adults who participated in an aerobic exercise program to those who participated in a non-aerobic exercise program. Both programs involved three 1-hour sessions of exercise weekly for 6 months.

Results:
After 6 months, the group of older individuals who were assigned to the aerobic exercise group had brain imaging which showed they had significant increases in brain volume when compared to the brain volume in the non-aerobic exercise group. The most significant gains in brain volume were seen in the frontal lobe and cortical gray matter regions. These regions are implicated in higher order memory processes and attentional control. There was also a significant increase in the volume of brain white matter among aerobic exercisers. Of note, no changes were seen in brain volume over the same 6 month period in younger individuals.

Conclusion:
This study suggests that regular aerobic exercise can not only help spare brain volume loss, but can actually increase brain volume in older adults. However, as previously mentioned, it is important to check with your physician prior to beginning any new regimen.
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