Low Level of Vitamin B12 Linked to Brain Shrinkage, Cognitive Problems

Older people may not be getting enough vitamin B12, and that could affect their thinking and the size of their brain, according to a new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center.

The results of the study are published in the Sept. 27 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 

Researchers from Rush led by Christine Tangney, PhD,  an associate professor of clinical nutrition, followed a group of 121 people aged 65 or older for 4.5 years. They measured the participants’ blood levels of vitamin B12 and markers of its breakdown products. They also recorded people’s performance on tests of thinking skills and took MRI scans of their brains.

The researchers found that low levels of vitamin B12 were linked to smaller brain volumes and lower scores on cognitive tests.

Almost all of the markers of B12 deficiency are strongly and inversely related to cognitive function, which means that as they rise, there was lower brain volume and worse performance on the cognitive tests,” says Tangney. “Our findings lend support for the contention that poor vitamin B12 status is a potential risk factor for brain atrophy and may contribute to cognitive impairment.”

For more information about the study, read the entire news release.

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