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Study Shows Possible Link Between High Levels of Homocysteine and Low Levels of B12 in African Americans with Alzheimer's Disease.

News Editors/Health & Medical Writers

8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related

Disorders

STOCKHOLM, Sweden--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 22, 2002

African Americans with Alzheimer's disease reportedly have high levels of homocysteine, a compound found in the blood, and low levels of B12, a vitamin essential for maturation of red blood cells and normal function of the nervous system, according to scientists presenting this week at the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders.

Floyd Willis, M.D., and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., conducted a study to evaluate the association between homocysteine, B12 and folic acid levels in African Americans with Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, they designed the study to examine whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) 1998 mandated increase in folic acid enrichment of grain is evident in the blood of these individuals.

The Mayo Clinic researchers collected blood samples from 256 African Americans who showed no signs of cognitive impairment and 58 African Americans who had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. All study participants were over the age of 50.

When comparing the two groups, the researchers found homocysteine levels were significantly higher in the individuals with Alzheimer's disease and levels of B12 were significantly lower. The levels of folic acid, however, were not significantly different between the groups.

When the blood samples were evaluated based on the date on which they were collected (before or after Jan. 1, 1998, the date of the U.S. mandated increase in folic acid fortification for commercial grain), the researchers found that both groups had significantly higher levels of folic acid in their blood after the mandate.

The research indicates that high levels of homocysteine and low levels of B12 are associated with Alzheimer's disease in African Americans and documents a significant increase in folic acid levels in this African-American population since the U.S. folate mandate. In the future, researchers expect to see increases in folate levels translate into a decrease in vascular and neurodegenerative disease.

High levels of homocysteine also have been linked to damage of the arteries, which may increase an individual's risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular problems.

This study is being presented at the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders, July 20-25, 2002, in Stockholm, Sweden. The conference, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, is the largest gathering of Alzheimer researchers in history. As many as 4,000 researchers from around the world will present and discuss the findings of nearly 2,000 studies on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer's Association is the premier source of information and support for the millions of Americans with Alzheimer's. The largest private funder of Alzheimer research in the United States, the Association has committed $138 million toward research into the disease.

Abstract No. 1121

Title:

Serum Homocystine, Folate, and B12 Levels in African Americans

with Alzheimer's Disease

Session:

Tuesday, July 23, 12:30 - 2:45 p.m.

Researcher:

Floyd Willis, M.D.

Editor's Note: News releases of selected research presented at the 8th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders are available on the Alzheimer's Association's Web site, at www.alz.org/internationalconference/newsroom.htm. Scientific abstracts are accessible on the Web at http://www.alz.org/internationalconference/programs.htm, then click on Program Navigator link.
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