Thinking and memory problems can be signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, research finds.
Deficiency in the vitamin has been linked to brain shrinkage with age and even dementia.
Vitamin B12 is crucial to the production of red blood cells and the healthy functioning of brain cells.
Its effect on mental processes is likely down to its involvement in in the production of myelin.
Myelin is a material that surrounds neurons (brain cells) and also the connections between them, known as axons.
Fortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to correct either with supplementation or a change in diet.
Foods high in vitamin B12 include dairy, beef, salmon, eggs and low-fat milk.
Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.
Reviewing the methods of detecting levels of B12 in the body, Dr Georgios Tsiminis and colleagues write:
“Increased levels of vitamin B12 have been shown to reduce the likelihood of older adults transitioning from mild cognitive impairment to dementia and in at least one case may help reverse the symptoms of frontotemporal dementia, as previously shown in a B12 recovery treatment program.
The growing number of studies indicating the significance of the relationship between vitamin B12 and cognitive health cannot be ignored.”
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 Georgios Tsiminis, the study’s first author, said:
“Vitamin B12 deficiency has been shown to be a potential modifiable risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and is associated with cognitive decline.
Older adults are particularly at risk of B12 deficiency due to age-related reduction in absorbing vitamin B12 received through their diet.
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 journal Applied Spectroscopy Reviews (Tsiminis et al., 2019).