New health and wellness benefits continue to be found for folic acid. New research finds that vitamin B9 and B12 can improve the quality of life of multiple sclerosis patients.
The study, which was published in the Clinical Nutrition Research journal, found that the two supplements can lower levels of homocysteine (a common amino acid), improve anemia status, and boost self-reported physical health in MS patients.
Even with treatment, MS patients often experience symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. Many patients have turned to dietary supplements with the hope of reducing the severity of their symptoms.
Lack of vitamin B12 — naturally found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products — can lead to a disruption in myelination, the process of forming a protective myelin coat around nerve cells.
A lack of folic acid, together with too little vitamin B12, has been linked to neurological symptom onset in MS patients. Meanwhile, vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements have shown promising results among these patients.
In addition, MS patients are known to have an increased risk for the development of megaloblastic anemia — a condition in which the bone marrow produces unusually large, immature red blood cells referred to as megaloblasts. The most common causes of megaloblastic anemia are a deficiency of either vitamin B12 or folic acid.
Researchers ran a double-blind clinical trial with 50 relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) patients ages 20-40 years old. Patients were divided into two groups; the vitamin group, which received three doses of 1 mg vitamin B12 injection (spaced a month apart) plus 5 mg folic acid tablets daily; and the placebo group, which received neutral saline injections.
Results showed a drop in average homocysteine blood serum levels in the vitamin group, which may be indicative of an improvement in nervous system health. Homocysteine can be more prevalent in MS patients compared to healthy individuals. High levels of this amino acid have been associated with heart disease and detrimental effects in the nervous system.
At the end of the study, the vitamin group showed improvements in both physical and mental fields in the quality-of-life questionnaires. However, RRMS patients in the control group (without vitamin supplements) also had an increase in the quality-of-life questionnaire for mental health, obscuring any conclusions on the effect of vitamin supplements in MS patients’ mental health.
“Results of the present study have shown that homocysteine levels, anemia status, and eventually the quality of life of patients with MS can be significantly improved by administration of 1 mg of vitamin B12 monthly and adding rich-food sources of folic acid on their diet,” the researchers wrote.
The team did also emphasize that “further studies in the field of MS dietary patterns must be concluded.”