Vitamin B-12 May Protect the Brain in Old Age

Higher vitamin B12 levels may protect against brain shrinkage in elderly people.

Vitamin B12, a nutrient found in meat, fish and milk, may protect the brain from shrinking in older people, according to researchers at the University of Oxford. The study involved 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87 who underwent brain scans to measure brain volume and gave blood samples to assess vitamin B1-2 levels once a year for up to five years.

Brain scans and memory tests were also performed again five years later. The study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people who had higher vitamin B12 levels were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage compared with those who had lower levels of the vitamin in their blood. None of the people in the study had vitamin B12 deficiency.

Many factors that affect brain health are thought to be out of our control, but this study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to consume more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory,” says Anna Vogiatzoglou of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford University. “Research shows that vitamin B12 deficiency is a public health problem, especially among the elderly, so more vitamin B12 intake could help reverse this problem."  The study, published in the journal Neurology, did not look at whether taking vitamin B-12 supplements would slow the rate of brain shrinkage, " Smith said. Another study in which he is involved focuses on that question, with the results expected in 2009, Smith added..”

The study was supported by the UK Alzheimer’s Research Trust, the Medical Research Council, the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation through the Norwegian Health Association, Axis-Shield plc and the Johan Throne Holst Foundation for Nutrition Research.

References:

1. Provided courtesy of http://www.mrc.ac.uk/NewsViewsAndEvents/News/MRC004809
2. The study was supported by the UK Alzheimer’s Research Trust, the Medical Research Council, the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation through the Norwegian Health Association, Axis-Shield plc and the Johan Throne Holst Foundation for Nutrition Research.
3. Original research paper: ‘Vitamin B12 status and rate of brain volume loss in community-dwelling elderly’ by Anna Vogiatzoglou, David Smith and colleagues is to be published in the 9 September 2008 issue of Neurology.

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