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