September 27, 2011
CHICAGOAdults over age 65 with vitamin B12 deficiency showed brain shrinkage and cognitive impairment, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center.
The study involved 121 older residents of the South side of Chicago who are a part of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), a longitudinal population study of common chronic health problems of older persons. The 121 participants had blood drawn to measure levels of vitamin B12 and B12-related markers and took tests to measure their memory and other cognitive skills.
An average of four-and-a-half years later, MRI scans of the participants brains were taken to measure total brain volume and look for other signs of brain damage. Having high levels of four of five markers for vitamin B12 deficiency was associated with having lower scores on the cognitive tests and smaller total brain volume. On the cognitive tests, the scores ranged from -2.18 to 1.42, with an average of 0.23. For each increase of one micromole per liter of homocysteineone of the markers of B12 deficiencythe cognitive scores decreased by 0.03 standardized units or points.
Our findings definitely deserve further examination," said Christine C. Tangney, PhD, associate professor in the department of clinical nutrition at Rush University Medical Center, and lead author of the study. Its too early to say whether increasing vitamin B12 levels in older people through diet or supplements could prevent these problems, but it is an interesting question to explore. Findings from a British trial with B vitamin supplementation are also supportive of these outcomes."
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