, Volume 53, Issue 7, pp 1445-1456
Date: 31 Jan 2014

Three-month B vitamin supplementation in pre-school children affects folate status and homocysteine, but not cognitive performance

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Abstract

Background

Suboptimal vitamin B status might affect cognitive performance in early childhood. We tested the hypothesis that short-term supplementation with folic acid and selected B vitamins improves cognitive function in healthy children in a population with relatively low folate status.

Methods

We screened 1,002 kindergarten children for suboptimal folate status by assessing the total urinary para-aminobenzoylglutamate excretion. Two hundred and fifty low ranking subjects were recruited into a double blind, randomized, controlled trial to receive daily a sachet containing 220 μg folic acid, 1.1 mg vitamin B2, 0.73 mg B6, 1.2 μg B12 and 130 mg calcium, or calcium only for 3 months. Primary outcomes were changes in verbal IQ, short-term memory and processing speed between baseline and study end. Secondary outcomes were urinary markers of folate and vitamin B12 status, acetyl-para-aminobenzoylglutamate and methylmalonic acid, respectively, and, in a subgroup of 120 participants, blood folate and plasma homocysteine.

Results

Pre- and post-intervention cognitive measurements were completed by 115 children in the intervention and 122 in the control group. Compared to control, median blood folate increased by about 50 % (P for difference, P < 0.0001). Homocysteine decreased by 1.1 μmol/L compared to baseline, no change was seen in the control group (P for difference P < 0.0001) and acetyl-para-aminobenzoylglutamate was 4 nmol/mmol higher compared to control at the end of the intervention (P < 0.0001). We found no relevant differences between the groups for the cognitive measures.

Conclusion

Short-term improvement of folate and homocysteine status in healthy children does not appear to affect cognitive performance.

Berthold Koletzko is the recipient of a Freedom to Discover Award of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, New York, NY.