Difficulties with memory and thinking skills can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, research finds.
Low levels of the vital vitamin are linked to accelerated cognitive aging.
With age, people’s brains generally work more slowly, their reasoning is not as sharp and their memory less clear.
However, people with normal vitamin B12 levels age better cognitively.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and brain shrinkage by some research.
The good news is that B12 deficiency is relatively easy to correct with a change in diet or supplementation.
Good sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.
Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.
For the study, 549 people, average age 75, were split into groups based on their vitamin B12 levels.
The results showed that being in the two lowest groups for vitamin B12 was linked to a more rapid cognitive decline over eight years.
Dr Martha Savaria Morris, the study’s first author, said:
“Men and women in the second lowest group did not fare any better in terms of cognitive decline than those with the worst vitamin B12 blood levels.
Rapid neuropsychiatric decline is a well-known consequence of severe vitamin B12 deficiency, but our findings suggest that adverse cognitive effects of low vitamin B-12 status may affect a much larger proportion of seniors than previously thought.”
People who may have difficulty getting enough vitamin B12 include vegetarians, older people and those with some digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease.
Dr Paul Jacques, study co-author, said:
“While we emphasize our study does not show causation, our associations raise the concern that some cognitive decline may be the result of inadequate vitamin B-12 in older adults, for whom maintaining normal blood levels can be a challenge.”
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Morris et al., 2012).