Having trouble with basic thinking skills can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, research finds.
Children with low levels of vitamin B12 had poorer cognitive abilities and difficulty interpreting the emotions of others.
They found it harder to:
- sustain attention,
- solve puzzles,
- learn words and names,
- and guess what others are thinking.
Low levels of vitamin B12 can even contribute to brain shrinkage, other studies have suggested.
The conclusions come from 500 children in Nepal who were followed from birth for 5 years.
The results showed that infants with poor vitamin B12 status had worse thinking skills at 5-years-old.
Low levels of vitamin B12 may impair brain development at an early age.
Ms Ingrid Kvestad, the study’s first author, said:
“Our results clearly demonstrate associations between early vitamin B12 status and various measures on development and cognitive functioning, as for example the ability to interpret complex geometrical figures, and the ability to recognize other children’s emotions.”
Good sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.
Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.
People who may have difficulty getting enough vitamin B12 include vegetarians, older people and those with some digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease.
Ms Kvestad said:
“Most of the Nepalese children participating in the study did not have severely low levels of vitamin B12, but their levels were suboptimal, below the recommendations for best possible growth and development.
It’s like a hidden deficiency of the vitamin in these children’s bodies, making their cells work rigorously to signalize imminent danger.
Our study is one contribution in the big puzzle to understand the implications low B12 levels might have on small children’s cognitive development.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Kvestad et al., 2017).