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 the efficacy of thiamine for people with Alzheimer's disease.
Search strategy: The Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (Issue 3:2000), the CDCIG Trials Register and other sources were searched for this update in July 2000 using the terms 'alzheimer*', thiamin* and vitamin B1'. In addition bibliographies of published reviews, and conference proceedings were searched and pharmaceutical companies and trials investigators were contacted.
Selection criteria: All unconfounded, double-blind, randomized trials in which treatment with thiamine was administered for more than a day and compared with placebo in patients with dementia of the Alzheimer's type.
Data collection and analysis: Data were extracted independently by two reviewers and the odds ratios (95% CI) or the average differences (95% CI) were estimated.
Main results: There are three included studies, but few results were reported that could be included. The cross-over studies did not report results from the first phase. It was not possible to pool any results for a meta-analysis. Nolan 1991 reports results that show no evidence of an effect on MMSE at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months for thiamine compared with placebo for those who completed the trial. Meador 1993a noted that 3/8 on thiamine compared with 6/9 on placebo were worse as measured on the ADAS-Cog at 3 months compared with baseline, but the difference is not statistically significant. Blass 1988 and Nolan 1991 reported that no significant side-effects were noted during the study, and Meador 1993a did not mention side-effects. Blass 1988 noted that 5/16 and Nolan 1991 that 5/15 did not complete the study, but neither mentioned the groups to which these people belonged.
Reviewer's conclusions: It is not possible to draw any conclusions from this review. The number of people included in the studies if less than 50 and the reported results are inadequate.