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Vitamin B12 deficiency may affect the brain through multiple mechanisms.Tangney et al, Neurology 77:1276-1282, 2011.

Paper

 

Vitamin B12 deficiency may affect the brain through multiple mechanisms.Tangney et al, Neurology 77:1276-1282, 2011.

Details

Previous studies have shown that vitamin B12 deficiency may contribute to age-related brain shrinkage and memory problems. This is of concern because vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older people. Our ability to absorb this nutrient tends to decline with age, and many older people take medication which further reduces its absorption. These medications include drugs to reduce stomach acid (proton-pump inhibitors) and metformin (for diabetes). This latest study compared markers of vitamin B12 deficiency with various measures of brain shrinkage (MRI scans) and function (neuropsychological test results) over a 5 year period.  They found that the markers of B12 deficiency (methyl-malonic acid, cystathionine, homocysteine) were associated with brain shrinkage, poorer memory and cognitive function. These markers are generally better indicators of B12 deficiency than measuring blood levels of B12 directly. In fact, when they compared blood levels of B12 with brain shrinkage and function, there was no association at all.

Tangney CC, Aggarwal NT, Li H, Wilson RS, DeCarli C, Evans DA, Morris MC (2011) Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures - A cross-sectional examination. Neurology 77:1276-1282

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