On The Agenda - Vitamin B holds Alzheimer's hope

In a nutshell

Vitamin B tablets, taken daily, can halve the rate of brain shrinkage in older people experiencing some symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, according to a clinical trial conducted at the University of Oxford. It has prompted researchers to suggest that this could be the first step towards finding a way to delay the onset of Alzheimer's.

- Why is the research so important?

The two-year randomised double-blind clinical trial is the largest to study the effect of B vitamins on mild cognitive impairment and one of the first disease-modifying trials to show positive results in humans.

- What does it mean?

The Alzheimer's Research Trust, which part-funded the research, said the study could change the lives of thousands of people at risk of dementia. However, it added that previous studies of B vitamins had been disappointing and said it did not want to raise people's hopes. It has not seen any specific benefits in terms of preventing the onset of the symptoms of dementia.

- PR strategy

A press release was sent to healthcare correspondents on national newspapers by the press office at The Alzheimer's Research Trust, under embargo until last Thursday.

- Media coverage

The Daily Mail ran the story on the front page with the headline: '10p pill to beat Alzheimer's'. BBC Breakfast also covered the research as the main story on Thursday morning. Interviews were set up with the Press Association and Al Jazeera English. It also appeared in The Daily Telegraph and on The Sun online.

750k people in the UK have a form of dementia

1.7m people will have dementia by the year 2051

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