A study published in Pediatrics suggests children who receive vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements as infants and toddlers, may not have improved cognition as they age.

Previous studies have concluded that providing infants and toddlers (6–30 months old) with six months of nutrient supplementation with folic acid and vitamin B12 improves their cognitive testing scores after three years. As a follow-up to that original study conducted with 1,000 North Indian children, researchers randomly assigned children (6–30 months old) to receive a placebo or 1.8 micrograms (µg) of vitamin B12, 150 mg of folic acid, or both daily for six months.

After six years, the researchers re-enrolled 791 of these children for cognitive assessments. They compared the scores of the main outcomes between the study groups. They also measured the associations between markers of the B vitamins (plasma cobalamin, folate, and total homocysteine concentrations) in early childhood and the cognitive outcomes.

The researchers found that there were no differences between the intervention groups and the placebo group on the cognitive outcomes. In the unadjusted models, early childhood concentrations of plasma cobalamin, folate, and total homocysteine were associated with the cognitive outcomes at follow-up. These associations disappeared in models adjusted for relevant confounders.

The researchers concluded that “vitamin B12 and folate in children 6 to 36 months have limited public health relevance for long-term cognition.”

However, in an accompanying commentary on the study, Leila Larson and Beverly Biggs, from the Department of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, provided alternative explanations for the study’s findings. They also noted potential limitations to the study methodology.

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Commentary

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