Problems with memory and general thinking skills can be signs of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Deficiency in vitamin B12 is linked to worse memory for both ideas and events.
Low levels of vitamin B12 may also contribute to brain shrinkage.
Around one-in-eight people over 50 are low in vitamin B12 levels, recent research finds.
The rates of deficiency are even higher in those who are older.
The conclusions come from an Irish study of 5,290 people.
Along with vitamin B12 deficiency, the study also found that one-in-seven were low in folate.
Both folate and vitamin B12 are vital for DNA, nerve function and brain health.
They play a crucial role in the production of red blood cells.
Fortunately, these deficiencies are easy to rectify with diet or supplementation.
Good dietary 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.
Professor Anne Molloy, study co-author, said:
“This study shows a surprising level of inadequate folate among older persons, despite many years of voluntary folic acid fortification of certain foods on the Irish market.
Concerns relating to excessive folic acid intake, particularly in older people, have been at the heart of current debates regarding the risks of population-wide folic acid fortification.”
People at particular risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include smokers, those living alone and people from poorer backgrounds.
Few people in the study took supplements to correct the deficiency, although women were more likely than men to do so.
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 British Journal of Nutrition (Laird et al., 2018).