Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for your brain- it protects your nervous system, maintains mental clarity, and delays some of the effects of old age, including dementia. Because the elderly are at high risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency, a large proportion of senior citizens suffer from symptoms of early-onset dementia, such as short-term memory loss, confusion, depression, and paranoia. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and similar forms of dementia, many experts believe that vitamin B12 is helpful for slowing down brain deterioration and extending cognitive health.

Vitamin B12 and the brain

Vitamin B12 benefits the brain in many ways. For one, it helps to maintain myelin, a fatty substance that coats each individual nerve cell, protecting your central and peripheral nervous systems from harm and enhancing intercellular communication. Symptoms of diminished myelin (demyelination) include poor reflexes, painful tingling in the hands and feet, partial paralysis, eye twitches, vision problems, altered sense of taste, and difficulty walking. Long-term nerve damage is irreversible, and may result in severe physical handicaps or death.

Vitamin B12 also helps to regulate hormones melatonin and serotonin, and controls homocysteine, a hormone linked with heart attack and stroke.

In several studies focusing on patients of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar depression, researchers noted dramatic psychological health benefits with the introduction of regimented vitamin B12 supplements.

Dementia and vitamin B12

In relation to Alzheimer’s disease dementia, studies on vitamin B12 levels among elderly citizens found significant correlations. Senior citizens diagnosed with early-stage dementia who had healthy levels of vitamin B12 scored better on memory tests than dementia patients with vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, MRI results indicated dramatically fuller brain mass among dementia patients who took vitamin B12 supplements, where brain scans of dementia sufferers with depleted vitamin B12 levels reflected less brain matter, indicating more advanced stages of brain deterioration from dementia.

More studies are underway linking vitamin B12 deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers hope to authenticate vitamin B12 as a treatment for dementia caused by aging.