Vitamin B12 May Protect Against Brain Shrinkage
The study was the work of Anna Vogiatzoglou of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford University, and colleagues, and is published in the 9th September online issue of the journal Neurology.
For the prospective study, Vogiatzoglou and colleagues, under the auspices of the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), studied 107 community dwelling volunteers aged from 61 to 87 who did not have cognitive impairment when they enrolled on the project. The volunteers underwent yearly MRI brain scans, cognitive and memory tests and physical exams for five years.
The participants also gave blood samples at the start and the end of the project, from which a number of B12 markers and metabolites were assessed, including blood folate levels.
The results showed that while none of the participants had a shortage of vitamin B12, those with the highest levels were six times less likely to show brain shrinkage compared to those who had the lowest levels.
The researchers concluded that:
"Low vitamin B12 status should be further investigated as a modifiable cause of brain atrophy and of likely subsequent cognitive impairment in the elderly."
Commenting on the findings, Vogiatzoglou said:
"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."
(The study did not assess whether taking vitamin B12 supplements would improve memory.)
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a recognized public health problem, particularly among older people, so increasing B12 intake could help to reduce the problem. However, a clinical trial would be necessary before a final conclusion about whether giving older people B12 supplements would make a significance difference to their risk of brain shrinkage, said Vogiatzoglou.
"Vitamin B12 status and rate of brain volume loss in community-dwelling elderly."
Vogiatzoglou, A., Refsum, H., Johnston, C., Smith, S. M., Bradley, K. M., de Jager, C., Budge, M. M., Smith, A. D.
Neurology 2008 71: 826-832.
September 9, 2008, Volume 71, Issue 11.
Click here for Abstract.
Source: Oxford University.
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