Monday, September 15, 2008

Alzheimer's Reading Room: Vitamin B12 May Protect Against Brain Shrinkage in Old Age

These findings should be of special interest to baby boomers now entering their 60s.

A study conducted by researchers at the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA) found that people with higher levels of vitamin B12 were six times less likely to experience brain volume loss. Vitamin B12, a nutrient found in meat, fish and milk, may protect against brain volume loss in older people. The researchers studied 107 volunteers age 61 to 87 who did not have cognitive impairment when they volunteered. The volunteers underwent yearly MRI brain scans, cognitive and memory tests and physical exams for five years.

This study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to consume more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory, says Anna Vogiatzoglou of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at Oxford University. Research shows that vitamin B12 deficiency is a public health problem, especially among the elderly, so more vitamin B12 intake could help reverse this problem. Without carrying out a clinical trial, we acknowledge that it is still not known whether B12 supplementation would actually make a difference in elderly persons at risk for brain shrinkage.