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Early childhood vitamin B12, folate hold little relevance for long-term cognition

08 Mar 2020

Vitamin B12 or folate levels in early childhood exert little to no persistent impact on cognitive outcomes in children ages 6–9 years, as reported in a recent study.

The study randomized 1,000 children aged 6–30 months to receive a placebo, 1.8 µg of vitamin B12, 150 mg of folic acid or both daily for 6 months. Of the children, 791 (mean age, 7.4 years) were re-enrolled after 6 years for cognitive assessments (the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition [India], the Crichton Verbal Scale and subtests of the NEPSY-II).

Mean cognitive scores at the follow up did not significantly differ across the intervention groups, except for one subscale of the NEPSY-II in the vitamin B12 group. Likewise, cognitive outcomes did not differ by intervention in the following subgroups: age <19 months (<24 months when receiving the supplementation), stunting (<−2 height or length-for-age z scores) and high plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) concentration (>10 μmol/L).

In unadjusted linear regression models, cognitive outcomes at follow-up were associated with baseline plasma concentrations of cobalamin (p=0.021), folate (p=0.014) and tHcy (p<0.001). However, these associations disappeared in models controlled for relevant confounders.

Vitamin B12 and folate are said to be essential for brain development, and an inadequate status has the potential to impair important processes in the developing brain. However, the findings of the present study suggest that vitamin B12 and folate have limited public health relevance in terms of the developing brain and long-term cognitive functioning, the researchers said. [Adv Nutr 2016;7:879-888; Br J Nutr 2019;122:S10–S15; Eur J Clin Nutr 2017;71:1046-1053]

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