Low vitamin B12 levels linked with cognitive problems

Consumer Reports News: September 26, 2011 04:09 PM

Seniors with low blood levels of B12 might be more likely to lose brain cells and develop problems with cognitive skills, according to a report released today in the journal Neurology.

In the study, researchers measured the blood levels of vitamin B12 and certain B12-metabolites in 121 people 65 and older who were involved in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. The researchers also tested the participants’ memory and other cognitive skills. An average of 4.5 years later, the researchers took MRI scans that measured the participants’ brain volume and looked for signs of brain damage. People with high levels of four of five markers for vitamin B12 deficiency were more likely to score lower on the cognitive tests and to have smaller brains.

Bottom line:
It’s too early to say whether increasing vitamin B12 levels in older people through diet or supplements could prevent brain shrinkage and cognitive problems. But you might want to make sure you get enough B12 in your diet—especially if you are 50 years or older—by eating foods naturally high in the vitamin, such as meat, fish and seafood, or fortified with it, such as breakfast cereals or milk. You could also consider a low-dose supplement. For details, read about good dietary sources of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures [Neurology]

Doug Podolsky

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