Having higher vitamin B12 levels may protect against brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in older adults, according to a new study from the University of Oxford in Britain.
This study involved 107 healthy people aged 61 to 87 who underwent scans to measure brain volume and gave blood samples to assess their vitamin B12 levels once a year for up to five years.
Although all the older adults had vitamin B12 levels that were within the normal range, those with the highest blood levels were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage as compared to their peers with lower levels of this B vitamin.
These findings suggest that vitamin B12 may guard against the loss of brain volume - possibly preventing declines in thinking and memory.
Vitamin B12 helps in the formation of red blood cells and is important for the maintenance of the central nervous system. Deficiency in this vitamin is a common problem among older adults, although its symptoms may be obscure.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue attributed to anemia and possible neurological signs like tingling in the hands and feet.
Adults over 50 are advised to consume 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day. Good food source of vitamin B12 include milk and other dairy products, fish, meat and fortified breakfast cereals. One cup (250 ml) of skim milk provides 1.4 micrograms of B12 .
Older adults with vitamin B12 deficiency may have trouble absorbing this vitamin from foods. A supplement of vitamin B12 is recommended for these individuals and is available in tablet form or as a strip that dissolves under the tongue.
Multivitamins contain up to 25 micrograms of vitamin B12 to support optimal health. Please consult your dietitian before starting a vitamin supplementation regime to determine the amount of vitamin B12 that's right for you.
This study was published in the September 8, 2008 issue of Neurology.
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