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Wednesday
Nov022011

Vitamin B12 and Senior Moments

As we get older, our bodies don’t absorb vitamin B12 as readily as they did during our younger years (B12 is found in animal foods - meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products). And this decreasing absorption may help explain why brain size shrinks with age and seniors develop problems with thinking. Researchers in Chicago checked blood levels of B12 in 121 seniors taking part in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. The investigators also measured vitamin B12 in five metabolites that are considered markers for B12 activity; a protocol, which they said, could give a fuller picture of B12 status. The seniors were asked to complete 17 tests to assess their memory and thinking skills. More than four years later, the study participants underwent MRIs to measure brain volume and to look for other signs of brain atrophy. The research team found that low levels of B12 in the metabolites were associated with poorer thinking skills and smaller brain volume. Because the study was a small one, the investigators said their results must be confirmed by additional research, and cautioned against making dietary changes based on their results. The study was published in the September 27 issues of Neurology.

My take? It is interesting that these researchers concluded that testing B12 levels in the blood isn’t enough to assess its activity in the body, but this is not the first study to associate low levels of B12 with negative changes in brain anatomy and function. A study published in 2008 suggested that seniors with the highest levels of B12 were six times less likely to exhibit brain atrophy than participants whose B12 levels were lower. I recommend that everyone over 50 years of age consume vitamin B12-fortified foods, take a vitamin B12 supplement, or take 50 mcg of B12 as part of a B-complex that contains a full spectrum of B vitamins, including biotin, thiamine, B12, riboflavin and niacin.

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Reader Comments (6)

You make me understand. You helped me so much.
Thanks for sharing this.
It made me understand something, and it is that I never knew before.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterscott

Due to tingling hands, I had a blood test that confirmed B 12....mild deficiency. I wasn't given any treatment but was told that pills were no good at all.....only injections helped.....although I wasn't given any injections. Do you really think that over the counter B12 can be absorbed by the body? My consultant said it was just a con..

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermargaret

It's not just seniors who might have low B12! Anyone taking a stomach acid blocker is also blocking B12 absorption. This may cause low mood for which many people might seek an antidepressant.

Older people taking stomach acid blockers are doubly at risk for low B12.

Since B12 is generally found in animal products, vegetarians sometimes have difficulty getting enough.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAltostrata

Great stuff, thank you. Necessary advice to really add to a healthy lifestyle. What do you find are the healthiest, best absorbed sources of B12? I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, what should I look for?

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTamillow

A new study suggests high doses of B vitamins may halve the rate of brain shrinkage in older people experiencing some of the warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.

November 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Senior Vitamin
Vitamin B12 is essential for the nervous system, which is why a deficiency can also cause inflammation of the nerves (neuritis) and dementia (mental deterioration).Elderly people are particularly at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, although it may also be present in the young women.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSenior Vitamin
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