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Memory Issues? You Could be Deficient in Vitamin B12

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As an aging baby boomer, I’m always on the lookout for new research about how to combat memory loss, brain health, etc. Most people who are older than 50 have similar concerns, so it was no surprise to find an article on the AARP Website about a research study linking vitamin B12 levels to memory loss and brain size.

The research study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago tested 121 people age 65 and older for thinking skills and blood levels of vitamin B12. The participants were also checked for the presence of blood markers that collect when the body is deficient in B12. Four to five years later they had MRI brain scans which found those with low vitamin B12 levels had the smaller brains and the lowest scores on tests.

“While B12 occurs naturally in beef, fish, shellfish, dairy products and many other foods, the problem often is not with diet but absorption,” says Christine Tangney, associate professor of clinical nutrition at Rush and one of the authors of the study. "It's too early to say whether increasing vitamin B12 levels in older people through diet or supplements could prevent these problems, but it is an interesting question to explore.”

As we age, we need to think about our vitamin B12 intake. Are we getting enough through our diets? Is it time to take supplements? Aging vegetarians should especially be aware of these symptoms as their diets lack natural B12-enriched foods.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, weight loss, constipation or diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal bloating and gas, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, loss of balance, and eventually memory loss. Some prescription medications can limit the absorption of B12 such as those that treat heartburn, stomach ulcers and type 2 diabetes.

The Mayo clinic suggests a daily B12 supplement of 25 to 100 micrograms for those 50 and older, which can be found in most multivitamins. 

If you are concerned about your vitamin B12 levels, your doctor can order blood tests that will show any deficiencies.


AARP - Health Discovery - Vitamin B12 Levels Linked to Memory Skills and Brain Size. Web. 25, October, 2011

Mayo Clinic - Alzheimer's disease - Can vitamin B-12 improve memory in Alzheimer's disease? Web. 25, October, 2011

ScienceDaily - Science News - Low Vitamin B12 Levels May Lead to Brain Shrinkage, Cognitive Problems. Web. 25, October, 2011

WebMD - Vitamin B12 - What Do You Know About Vitamin B12 Deficiency? Web. 25, October, 2011

Mayo Clinic - Vitamin B12 - Dosing. Web. 25, October, 2011

Reviewed Wed October 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos

Add a Comment6 Comments


Hi Amyzon,
Some degree of memory problems, as well as a modest decline in other thinking skills, is a fairly common part of aging. But, when memory problems disrupt your ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life, talk to your doctor to get a timely diagnosis and appropriate care.

To my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence linking sugar substitutes to memory loss.

There are many causes of memory loss including an event in which not enough oxygen was going to the brain (heart stopped, stopped breathing, complications from receiving anesthesia). Memory loss is one of the most recognizable sign of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.

There are 5 things which you can do to prevent further heart disease.
Don't smoke
Exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week. Consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.
Eat a heart healthy diet. Eating a special diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can help protect your heart.
Maintain a healthy weight.One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which considers your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. BMI numbers 25 and higher are associated with higher blood fats, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly per your physician's recommendations.


October 31, 2011 - 4:20pm

Check out this article on EmpowHer - https://www.empowher.com/alzheimer039sdisease/content/memory-loss-control-your-blood-sugar by Dr. Carrie Jones. Good luck.

October 31, 2011 - 12:12pm

do u think memory loss could be linked to sugar substitutes at all i am 66 and really have a hard time with saying and remembering what i going to say.....or starting to say something and forgetting what the heck i was going to say................... i also had knee surgery in june and open heart surgery in 2002 triple bipass..... thank u............also i would like to know what to do to prevent further heart disease........thank u amyzon

October 27, 2011 - 8:06pm

Hi Strengthtoforgive,
This is a very interesting question and I bet a lot of people would like to know the answer. I'm going to check around and see what I can find out.

Thank you for commenting.

October 27, 2011 - 2:41pm

Throughout my life I have used blocking memories to deal with trauma of childhood abuses - sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse. I often wonder if this defence mechanism is now causing me to have memory problems. Where once it was helpful, I wonder if it is now a hindrance? Do you know if this issue has ever been researched and if so where can I find this info?

October 27, 2011 - 12:09pm
EmpowHER Guest

This article is right on target! Making sure you eat foods to get the benefits from the vitamins is not always enough - especially with the possiblity of having MTHFR polymorphisms. That is why CerefolinNAC offers the benefits of ingredients to help slow progression of early memory loss & mild cognitive impairment. I work with this medication in addition to taking it since I have a family history. I found more information at www.cerefolinnac.com

October 27, 2011 - 10:10am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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