Many people are aware thatvitamin B12 status declines during aging, as millions of seniors fall prey to adecline in this critical nutrient. Vitamin B12 circulating in the blooddeclines in the elderly due to absorption problems in the digestive tractleading to poor uptake by body tissues, especially the brain.
Researchers publishing in the journal Neurology have established a definitivelink between poor vitamin B12 levels and brain shrinkage, a hallmark ofcognitive decline and Alzheimer`s dementia. Supplementation with thebiologically active form of the B vitamin may help prevent shrinkage andpreserve learning capabilities and memory functions as we age.
Vitamin B12 Deficiencies Linked to Shrinking Brain Volume and CognitiveDecline Among Elderly
The study involved 121participants from the Chicago Health and Aging Project who underwent magneticresonance imaging (MRI) scans over a period of four and a half years.Additionally, each member of the study had blood drawn to measure levels of vitaminB12 and B12-related markers that can indicate a B12 deficiency. The samesubjects took tests measuring their memory and other cognitive skills.
MRI scans were analyzed tomeasure total brainvolume and look for other signs of brain damage. The tests included sevenmeasures of episodic memory, two measures of visual spatial ability andperceptual organization, two measures of perceptual speed, two measures of semanticmemory, and three measures of working memory. Stored blood samples wereanalyzed for vitamin B12 and homocysteine, a byproduct of metabolism associatedwith dementia, cognitive decline and coronary artery disease.
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Researchers determined that havinghigh levels of four of five markers for vitamin B12 deficiencywas associated with having lower scores on the cognitive tests and smallertotal brain volume. Indicators of vitamin B12 insufficiency contributed to poorglobal cognitive test scores and a decrease in brain volume revealed by MRIfindings compared to those with better B12 status. Higher levels of the vitaminB12 markers were linked to decreased total brain volume. Elevated homocysteinelevels were indicative of greater white matter volume and elevated risk ofcerebrovascular events.
Lead researcher, Dr. ChristineTangney concluded"Our findings suggest that … vitaminB12 deficiency, may affect cognition by reducing total brain volume whereas theeffect of homocysteine on cognition may be mediated through increased whitematter hyperintensity volume and cerebral infarcts." Vitamin B12deficiency among the elderly is a significant cause for concern and may verywell be a key contributor to the explosion of Alzheimer`s disease cases overthe past 50 years. Nutritionists recommend supplementing with the bioactiveform of B12 known as methylcobalamin (1 to 5 mg per day taken sublingually) toregulate circulating levels of this critical brain nutrient.