B12 supplements may aid brain function in the elderly

September 5, 2000 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

B12 supplements may aid brain function in the elderly

Elderly patients who have mild vitamin B12 deficiency have improved cognitive function when extra B12 in a supplement. A total of 54 people over the age of 60 were included in the study conducted at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Thirty-three had either definite or probable B12 deficiency, and 21 were non-deficient. Those who were deficient had vitamin B12 levels below 190 ng/L and had no anemia or symptoms. All the subjects underwent assessment of cognitive function with P3ERP tests, an objective measure of decision-making processes.

All the volunteers were given B12 treatment for six months, and then tests were repeated. There was a significant improvement in eight of the 14 patients initially diagnosed as B12-deficient, and there was no change in the two subjects from the control group. There were also no changes in those who had normal tests the first time.

According to the researchers, it is possible that those patients had cognitive problems that were indeed linked to vitamin B12 deficiencies and could be reversed with treatment.

Close to 10% of the general population has abnormal P3ERP tests, Dr. Carmel commented. Still, "longitudinal studies have shown that P300 changes progress with the progression of dementia," he said.

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