Vitamin A Status At Birth Linked to Long-Term Risk of Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s

Cognitive FunctionA new study has found elderly individuals with low Vitamin A levels may be more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease along with lower brain functioning.  Additionally the study found the even a marginal Vitamin A deficiency at birth might affect long-term risk factors.

This new study was made up of findings from mouse models as well as human population data.  The population study revealed that 75% of those with either a significant or even mild Vitamin A deficiency had some cognitive impairment compared to 47% with normal Vitamin A levels that experienced cognitive impairment.  The research on mice confirmed this finding.  Even a mild Vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy or immediately after birth was associated with an increase in the production of amyloid-beta plaques which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  Researchers found that mice deprived of Vitamin A performed poorly on standardized tests of memory as well as learning as adults.  Mice that had Vitamin A withheld while they were in the womb but were given a normal diet after they were born had lower performance in general when compared to mice receiving adequate Vitamin A in the womb but were deprived Vitamin A after birth.  It was found that some reversal of decline could be reversed with adequate Vitamin A supplementation.  Researchers concluded that monitoring Vitamin A during infancy as well as during pregnancy and eliminating a prenatal Vitamin A deficiency may aid in halting Alzheimer’s disease development.



Micronutrient Supplementation For Mothers Boosts Infant Cognitive Health

Infant CognitionA major follow up study has determined pregnant women should take more micronutrients besides iron and folic acid to increase the long-term cognitive development of their children.

The Supplementation with Multiple Micronutrients Intervention Trial (SUMMIT) lasted from 2001 – 2004.  Over 31,000 pregnant women participated in this study.  The study goals were to determine if more micronutrients during pregnancy were necessary to increasing long-term cognitive and brain development.  Half the study participants received iron and folic acid supplements (IFA) during their pregnancy and for 3 months after their babies were born.  The other half of the study participants received iron and folic acid in addition to other micronutrients like B6, zinc and iodine (MMN).

Positive effects of the MMN supplement group were seen in 487 children who were assessed for cognitive ability at the ages 3 – 5 years old.  After 10 years of age, researchers tested almost 3,000 children who were now between 9 and 12 years of age.  The MMN Group totaled 1,466 children and the IFA group had 1,413 children.  The goals of this second round of testing were to assess the long term effect of MMN supplementation on socio-emotional, cognitive and motor development in the children and to assess the effect of socio-environmental and biomedical determinants on these results.

Children born from women in the MMN group showed significant proficiency in general intellectual ability and procedural memory when compared with the children of the women in the IFA group. This is equivalent to cognitive development gained from an additional half a year of schooling.   In general the children born to mothers in the MMN group showed improvements in socio-emotional, fine motor and cognitive abilities when compared with the children of the other group.