Cognitive decline may be linked to inadequate vitamin B12
By Dr. Donna Barsky, D.Ph., R.Ph., Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
There are so many new findings on how important our nutritional foundation is in relation to our longevity and quality of life that it is very difficult to keep up with the current trends.
If you haven’t noticed by now, when you go to your physician for a yearly checkup we are now seeing, for the first time, routine levels being drawn for both vitamin D and vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 has many important functions in the body. It works with the B vitamin folate to make our body’s genetic material. It helps keep levels of the amino acid homocysteine in check, which may help decrease heart disease risk, and it is essential to the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the blood to the body’s tissues. However, many people are deficient in B12.
There are many reasons or causes of deficiency. Some individuals have digestive systems that do not adequately absorb the vitamin from the foods they eat. This problem can increase as we age as well. Other causes could be pernicious anemia, which is the absence of a protein in the stomach called intrinsic factor, that must be present for absorption, atrophic gastritis, a thinning of the stomach lining that affects up to 30% of people aged 50 and older, surgery in which part of the stomach and/or small intestine is removed, excessive alcohol consumption or conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, Graves’ disease, lupus erythematosus or even long-term use of acid-reducing drugs such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.
The best sources of B12 are meat, eggs and milk, so vegetarians can also suffer deficiencies.
So what are the symptoms? Weakness, or light-headedness, rapid heartbeat and labored breathing, pale skin, sore tongue, easy bruising including bleeding gums, stomach upset and weight loss, diarrhea or constipation. If the deficiency isn’t corrected, it can damage the nerve cells. These effects can include tingling or numbness in fingers and toes, difficulty walking, mood changes or depression, memory loss, disorientation and dementia. Even infants who are deficient in B12 can have permanent damage to the nervous system.
A study by researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University released information regarding the potential effect of mild vitamin B-12 deficiency on some older adults and the link for greater risk for accelerated cognitive decline. The study involved 549 women and men enrolled in a cohort of the Framington Heart Study with a focus on an established mini-test commonly used as a screening for dementia. The subjects were divided into five groups based on their vitamin B-12 blood levels and the two lowest groups were associated with significantly accelerated cognitive decline using the test scores over an eight-year time period. An interesting area to note is that those in the second lowest group did not appear to do any better in regards to cognitive decline than those who had the lowest vitamin B-12 levels. Lead researcher, Martha Savaria Morris of the Nutrition Epidemiology Program at HNRCA stated, “rapid neuropsychiatric decline is a well-known consequence of severe vitamin B-12 deficiency, but our findings suggest that adverse cognitive effects of low vitamin B-12 status may affect a much larger portion of seniors than previously thought.” While the study did not show causations, it is raising concern that inadequate vitamin B-12 may be contributing to cognitive decline in older adults.
If you think that you may have a problem with B12 absorption or may be otherwise deficient in any nutrient building block, call our Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Christina Reiter, for a comprehensive analysis of your health at TexasStar Pharmacy, 3033 W. Parker Rd., #100, Plano, TX 75023, 972-519-8475 or find us at texasstarpharmacy.com.