High intake of the vitamin niacin, particularly from food sources, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and age-related mental decline, according to a new report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.
The study points out that severe niacin deficiency is known to cause dementia. However, it is unclear if more subtle variations in niacin intake influence the risk of mental deterioration.
Researchers asked several thousand elderly people living in a Chicago community about the types and amounts of food they ate and tested their mental abilities. The study focused on 815 randomly selected subjects who were free from Alzheimer's disease at the start of the study. After an average of nearly four years, 131 of the participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
A high level of total niacin intake seemed to protect against both Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline. The association was stronger for niacin intake from foods than for niacin taken in vitamin supplements.
In the overall study population, high niacin intake was also linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Niacin is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, peanuts, almonds, seeds, what bran, whole grains and enriched breakfast cereals.
The findings will require verification before any changes to current dietary guidelines can be recommended.
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