Problems with thinking and memory can be signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, studies find.
Low levels of vitamin B12, along with other vital nutrients, are linked to brain shrinkage.
Deficiencies in these critical micronutrients may also be important in the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
New research has looked at nutrients in the ‘Mediterranean diet’, which is linked to better brain aging.
It found that people had better cognitive functioning when they had higher levels of important nutrients, including vitamin B12, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, folate and others.
The study included 116 seniors who were given tests of their IQ, memory and thinking skills.
Scans also assessed the efficiency of their brains.
Professor Aron Barbey, study co-author, said:
“Efficiency has to do with how information is communicated within the network.
We looked at ‘local efficiency’ – how well information is shared within a spatially confined set of brain regions – and also ‘global efficiency,’ which reflects how many steps are required to transfer information from any one region to any other region in the network.
If your network is more efficiently configured, then it should be easier, on average, to access relevant information and the task should take you less time.”
The results showed that people performed better in the tests if their blood was higher in levels of these nutrients:
- omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids,
- vitamin B12
- and vitamin D.
Professor Barbey explained the results:
“Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance.
This means that the strength of the association between functional brain network efficiency and cognitive performance is associated with the level of the nutrients.”
Other potential signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include feeling tired, experiencing muscle weakness and being constipated.
Good sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.
Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.
The study was published in the journal Neuroimage (Zwilling et al., 2019).