Brain health and vitamin B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining cognitive health and addressing mild memory problems related to aging. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common health problem for senior citizens who suffer the beginning stages of dementia.
Brain atrophy is what happens when brain tissue disintegrates. In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of age-related dementia, a reduction in the brain’s gray matter correlates to symptoms such as memory loss, disorientation, paranoia, and uncharacteristically aggressive behavior. In addition to losing brain volume, some elderly individuals also lose bone mass.
B12- the Brain Vitamin
In a recent study, elderly test participants who had vitamin B12 deficiency scored poorly on cognitive skills and memory testing, compared to their peers. In addition, MRI scans indicated that senior citizens with low B12 levels also had less brain mass than peers who had normal levels of vitamin B12.
This is not the first time that researchers found a correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency and cognitive health. In 2008, Oxford University scientists discovered a link between elevated levels of homocysteine (an indicator of low vitamin B12 levels) and brain shrinkage. Homocysteine is an amino acid that increases your chances of developing heart disease and stroke.
As you get older, your body slows down, and stops producing as many stomach acids. Unfortunately, your body still needs stomach acids in order to digest essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B12. People who lack sufficient stomach acids- the elderly, people on strong heartburn medications- lack the ability to digest vitamin B12 naturally, and must receive vitamin B12 supplements in order to prevent vitamin deficiency.
In order to detect vitamin B12 deficiency, doctors recommend that elderly individuals receive regular blood testing for homocysteine levels and active vitamin B12, particularly if they exhibit any symptoms of cognitive decline, such as short-term memory loss. If diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency, then your doctor will prescribe vitamin B12 injections or sublingual vitamin B12.
For extra vitamin B12, or as an alternative to painful injections, a popular option is to supplement with over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin B12.