Thiamine for Alzheimer's disease

  • Rodríguez J
  • Qizilbash N
  • López-Arrieta J
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BACKGROUND: Vitamin B1 (thiamine) plays an important role in Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (a form of amnesia caused by brain damage occurring in long-term alcoholics who rely mainly on alcohol for nutrition). The acute syndrome is normally reversible but may proceed to profound dementia, although its progress can be stopped by a timely injection of a large dose of thiamine. There have been suggestions that thiamine may have a beneficial effect in Alzheimer's disease. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this systematic review is to evaluate evidence of the effect of thiamine for Alzheimer's disease. SEARCH STRATEGY: The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register and the CDCIG Register were searched using the terms 'thiamine*, alzheimer* and vitamin* B1'. Other sources were also searched. SELECTION CRITERIA: All unconfounded, double-blind, randomized trials in which treatment with thiamine was administered for more than a day and compared to placebo in patients with dementia of the Alzheimer's type. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted independently by two reviewers, pooled if appropriate and possible, and the pooled odds ratios (95% CI) or the average differences (95% CI) were estimated. No intention-to-treat data were available to be used. MAIN RESULTS: Few data were available for review. The data were compatible with thiamine producing harm, no change or improvement. For measures of cognition, the effect of thiamine was non-significantly worse than placebo on the Mini Mental State Examination score (0-30; high=good) at 12 months: WMD -4.3 (95% CI: -14.4 - +5.8) and at time points 3, 6 and 9 months. Change from baseline analyses showed placebo to be significantly better than thiamine at all time points beyond three months; WMD -4.8 (95% CI: -6.0 to -3.6) at 12 months. There was no statistically significant difference in the test of Verbal Fluency and the Boston Naming Test. These analyses were based only on those who completed the study and not on intention-to-treat analyses. There were no results presented for withdrawal by treatment group. Data on measures of functional autonomy, behaviour, quality of life, dependency, or effect on carer were not available. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: This review finds no evidence that thiamine is a useful treatment for the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The data are so poor and sparse that it is difficult to state almost anything of its effect in Alzheimer's disease. Thiamine cannot be recommended for patients with Alzheimer's disease.




Rodríguez, J.-L., Qizilbash, N., & López-Arrieta, J. (2001). Thiamine for Alzheimer’s disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

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