As we age, our folate concentration can decrease, leading to a higher prevalence of a threshold-based medical condition termed serum folate deficiency.
The highest folate deficiency rates in the population occur among older adults, with estimated prevalence rates ranging from 5% to 20%. There is evidence that suggests that serum folate deficiency increases the likelihood of deficits in cognitive performance and neurological functioning.
Folate deficiency is also associated with an elevated risk of premature mortality in the general adult population.
In a recently published study, researchers found that low serum folate may increase the risk of dementia by 68%, while also having nearly 3 times the risk of death from any cause. The results appear in the journal Evidence Based Mental Health.
Study Development and Results
The study aimed to examine the association between serum folate deficiency and the risk of dementia and all-cause mortality in a large sample of older adults.
The team used data from the electronic health records at Meuhedet Healthcare Services which provides healthcare services with national coverage to 14% of the total population of Israel.
The eligible sample consisted of Israeli citizens from across the nation, aged 60–75 years in 2013, without pre-existing dementia for at least 10 years before serum folate measurements began.
Around 13% of the participants (3,418) had serum folate levels below 4.4 nanograms per milliliter, indicating folate deficiency. Among the individuals with insufficient amounts of folate, the rates of dementia were 3.4%. The rates of death from any cause came in just under 8%.
After factoring in co-occurring conditions, such as diabetes, vitamin B12 deficiency, cognitive decline, and depression, the researchers associated folate deficiency with a 68% higher risk of a dementia diagnosis.
The authors conclude that healthcare professionals should treat folate deficiency as a preventive measure and as part of implemented therapeutic strategies while regularly reviewing patients’ clinical outcomes.
Anat Rotstein, et al. Serum folate deficiency and the risks of dementia and all-cause mortality: a national study of old age. Evid Based Ment Health. 2022;0:1–6. doi:10.1136/ebmental-2021-300309