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Can We Prevent Hearing Loss In Elderly Women?

Research shows that age-related hearing loss may be related to nutritional status. A recent assessment of 55 women between 60 and 71 years of age found that women with impaired hearing had lower blood levels of vitamin B-12 and folate than women with normal hearing. This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the first to link vitamin status to hearing loss.

"This line of research has quite a bit of potential in identifying modifiable risk factors for age-related hearing loss" says Mary Ann Johnson, PhD, and Robert J. Nozza, Ph.D., lead authors of the study from University of Georgia, Athens. "While it is too soon to know if the modification of nutritional factors will influence how hearing changes with age, we will continue our research with the goal of one day contributing information that may lead to dietary recommendations aimed at influencing the course of age-related hearing loss."

This study assessed the hearing level of each participant and classified them into two groups: normal hearing or impaired hearing. Blood samples were drawn from each participant and red blood cells and serum were evaluated for vitamin B-12 and folate levels. Results showed that women with impaired hearing had 38% lower mean serum vitamin B-12, 31% lower mean red cell folate, and 25% lower mean serum folate than women with normal hearing. The investigators also analyzed dietary and supplemental intake of vitamin B-12 and folate and found that compared to women with impaired hearing, those with normal hearing consumed about twice as much folate and vitamin B-12.

The concept behind this study is not newvitamins and minerals frequently make headlines as evidence suggests that they reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. More advanced studies are needed to determine whether dietary supplements of vitamin B-12 and folate can, indeed, help prevent or delay age-related hearing loss. While this growing body of evidence
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Contact: Mary Ann Johnson, Ph.D.
mjohnson@fcs.uga.edu
706-542-2292 or 5059
American Society for Clinical Nutrition/American Society for Nutritional Sciences
30-Mar-1999


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