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article imageLow levels of vitamin B12 might shrink older brains

By Kathleen Blanchard     Sep 26, 2011 in Health
For older adults, vitamin B 12 might be more important than previously known for brain health. In new research, vitamin B12 deficiency was found to be linked to higher rates of memory problems and brain shrinkage for people age 65 and older.
The study included 121 people whose vitamin B12 level was measured. The investigation was conducted by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago researchers.
The study participants were given memory and cognitive skill tests, followed by MRI scans four years later to measure brain volume and look for signs of brain damage.
The scientists were able to associate brain shrinkage among the participants with vitamin B12 deficiency and those who had lower scores on memory and cognition tests.
Christine C. Tangney, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says “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. Findings from a British trial with B vitamin supplementation are also supportive of these outcomes.”
Tangney says it’s difficult to detect deficiency of the vitamin in older adults by measuring levels of B12 in the blood. For the study, vitamin B12 metabolites were measured that reflect deficiency.
The authors say more studies are needed to clarify the role of vitamin B12 for maintaining a healthy brain with aging. Foods that have high levels of the vitamin include milk, eggs poultry and liver.
The finding, published in the journal Neurology, suggests vitamin B12 deficiency could cause brain shrinkage and memory loss with aging.
More about brain shrinkage, vitamin B12, Tangney, Neurology
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