Can Insufficient Vitamin B-12 Contribute to Aging Brain Reduction?

Key Takeaways:

  • Inadequate vitamin B-12 might be linked to a decrease in brain size and cognitive skills as people age, according to recent studies.
  • Existing evaluation techniques for B-12 levels might not be precise enough, indicating a possibly higher prevalence of B-12 deficiency.
  • Vitamin B-12 is crucial for brain health and absorption may decrease as the body ages and certain medications might interfere with its absorption.
  • A study conducted on 121 seniors identified a correlation between smaller brain volume or lower cognitive test scores and higher levels of specific B-12 absorption markers.
  • The study suggests that solely measuring B-12 levels might not be adequate for diagnosing deficiency and that other indicators should be taken into account.

A lack of adequate vitamin B-12 might be linked to a decrease in brain size and cognitive skills as people grow older, according to recent studies.

Moreover, an unsatisfactory evaluation technique for B-12 levels might lead to a higher number than assumed of individuals sufficing from B-12 deficiency, observed Christine C. Tangney, the main author of the study.

Evaluating Vitamin Deficiency

The research team evaluated the study members’ vitamin levels using not only the B-12 levels, but also blood metabolites that act as indicators of B-12 function (or the lack thereof) in the tissues.

However, Dr. Marc L. Gordon, Chief of Neurology of Zucker Hillside Hospital, cautions that these revelations should not be a driving force for people to begin taking B-12 supplements. It is yet unclear whether the deficiency is a cause or effect in this scenario, he explained.

Vitamin B-12 and Diet

Except for strict vegans, the majority of people receive a sufficient amount of B-12, essential for brain health, from their diet – chiefly animal-derived products, added Gordon.

Vitamin B-12 is vital for brain health but could become a problem as the body grows older and starts absorbing it less efficiently. Certain medications can hinder the absorption of B-12, like proton pump inhibitors, prescribed for reducing stomach acid, and metformin, a common diabetes drug.

Research Findings

In a study comprising 121 seniors, B-12 levels and five different blood markers were examined to understand B-12 absorption better. These markers might provide more accurate information about B-12 absorption than the B-12 level itself, Tangney suggested.

Approximately four and a half years later, the participants’ brain volumes were measured using MRI scans, and signs of brain damage were assessed. A correlation between smaller brain volume and/or lower scores on cognitive tests and high levels of four of the five markers were detected.

This study implies that measuring B-12 levels alone is not adequate to ascertain if one is deficient or not. Additional indicators need to be taken into account, Tangney said.

Effects of B-12 Deficiency

The results of the study suggest that B-12 deficiencies might contribute to brain shrinkage, which can in turn lead to cognitive issues. While she brings up the need for caution, Tangney warns against initiating dietary alterations or making definitive conclusions from this study, as it is based on a tightly scoped participant group.

For more information about vitamin B-12, visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements’ page on vitamin B-12.


Greetings from the trails and tracks! I'm Tim, but most folks know me as TJ. I've spent the last 5 years diving deep into the world of content writing, with a particular penchant for nutrition and the intricate science behind it. Every bite we take, every nutrient we consume, tells a unique story – and I'm here to unravel it for you.Beyond my keyboard, you'll often find me on a winding hiking trail or pushing my limits on a long-distance run. These pursuits not only keep me fit but constantly remind me of the vital role nutrition plays in fueling our passions and adventures.Through my writings, I aim to bridge the gap between complex nutritional science and everyday eating habits. Whether you're looking for the latest research updates, practical diet tips, or stories from the running track, I'm committed to serving you content that's as engaging as it is enlightening.So, lace up your shoes, grab a healthy snack, and join me in this exploration of food, science, and the great outdoors. Together, we'll journey towards better health and incredible experiences!
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