Vitamin B12 is vital for the body to produce healthy red blood cells. It also needed for proper nerve function and DNA synthesis. A vitamin B12 deficiency can be the result of a variety of problems, such as not getting enough of it in the diet. It is well understood that lacking the vitamin can cause a number of physical changes, but it can also impact the mind too.
Growing evidence reveals the extent to which a B12 deficiency may impair a person’s cognitive function. One study published in the journal Neurology, found that people with low levels of B12 or folate may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The long-range Swedish study of persons 75-years-old and older found that more than half (46 out of 78) of those diagnosed with dementia had both low levels of vitamin B12 or folate and Alzheimer’s type dementia.
Study authors theorised that vitamin B12 or folate deficiencies affect Alzheimer’s disease by influencing neurotransmitters or the levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the body.
Either vitamin B12 or folate deficiency can increase homocysteine levels.
Homocysteine has a neurotoxic effect that could lead to cell death or neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“In our study, we found that low levels of either of these two vitamins were related to an increased Alzheimer’s disease risk,” said study co-author Hui-Xin Wang.
Wang added: “Monitoring B12 and folate levels is important in order to avoid unfavourable conditions, even for those elderly people who are quite healthy in terms of cognition.”
Study data were pulled from a population-based longitudinal study in Sweden called the Kungsholmen Project. A random sample of 370 non-demented persons, age 75 and older, and not treated with B12 or folate dietary supplements, was followed for three years to detect cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Within the timeframe of the study, 78 people developed some form of dementia.