- 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.
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.