Advancing age can be associated with an increase in cognitive dysfunction, a spectrum of disability that ranges in severity from mild cognitive impairment to dementia. Folate and the other B-vitamins involved in one-carbon metabolism are associated with cognition in ageing but the evidence is not entirely clear. The hypothesis addressed in this study was that lower dietary intake or biomarker status of folate and/or the metabolically related B-vitamins would be associated with a greater than expected rate of cognitive decline over a 4-year follow-up period in healthy older adults. Participants (aged 60–88 years; n
= 155) who had been previously screened for cognitive function were reassessed four years after initial investigation using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). At the 4-year follow-up assessment when participants were aged 73.4 ± 7.1 years, mean cognitive MMSE scores had declined from 29.1 ± 1.3 at baseline to 27.5 ± 2.4 (p
< 0.001), but some 27% of participants showed a greater than expected rate of cognitive decline (i.e., decrease in MMSE > 0.56 points per year). Lower vitamin B6 status, as measured using pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP; <43 nmol/L) was associated with a 3.5 times higher risk of accelerated cognitive decline, after adjustment for age and baseline MMSE score (OR, 3.48; 95% CI, 1.58 to 7.63; p
< 0.05). Correspondingly, lower dietary intake (0.9–1.4 mg/day) of vitamin B6 was also associated with a greater rate of cognitive decline (OR, 4.22; 95% CI, 1.28–13.90; p
< 0.05). No significant relationships of dietary intake or biomarker status with cognitive decline were observed for the other B-vitamins. In conclusion, lower dietary and biomarker status of vitamin B6 at baseline predicted a greater than expected rate of cognitive decline over a 4-year period in healthy older adults. Vitamin B6 may be an important protective factor in helping maintain cognitive health in ageing.
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