Q. Some say that folic acid may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Should I take supplements?
A. Some studies suggest that folate—a B vitamin found in beans, citrus fruits and vegetables (particularly leafy greens)—may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer and strokes. However, some research indicates that folic-acid fortification may be a problem for older people. Why? Large doses of folic acid, the supplemental form of folate, may mask the early symptoms that warn of B12 deficiency—a problem that’s more common after age 55. Left undetected and thus untreated, B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible nerve and brain damage. Get folate/folic acids from foods like vegetables, fruits and beans. Just 1⁄2 cup of pinto beans or 1 cup of orange juice or romaine lettuce supplies about one-fifth of the daily requirement. If you’re over 55, it’s OK to take a basic multivitamin, but don’t take a specific folic-acid supplement. You’re unlikely to need it and it may be harmful.