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Vitamin B12 Key to Aging Brain
Date:9/8/2008

Deficiency led to more brain shrinkage, study shows

MONDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Older individuals with low levels of vitamin B12 seem to be at increased risk of having brain atrophy or shrinkage, new research suggests.

Brain atrophy is associated with Alzheimer's disease and impaired cognitive function.

Although the study, published in the Sept. 8 issue of Neurology, can't confirm that lower levels of B12 actually cause brain atrophy, they do suggest that "we ought to be more aware of our B12 status, especially people who are vulnerable to B12 deficiency [elderly, vegetarians, pregnant and lactating women, infants], and take steps to maintain it by eating a balanced and varied diet," said study co-author Anna Vogiatzoglou, a registered dietician and doctoral candidate in the department of physiology, anatomy and genetics at the University of Oxford, in England.

"It's worth looking at B12 levels. It's a simple blood test," affirmed Dr. Shari Midoneck, an internist at the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center in New York City. "It doesn't hurt to take B12."

Good sources of the vitamin include meat, fish, milk and fortified cereals.

According to the study authors, vitamin B12 deficiency is a public health problem, especially among older people.

This study involved 107 volunteers aged 61 to 87 who were cognitively normal at the beginning of the study. All participants underwent annual clinical exams, MRI scans and cognitive tests and had blood samples taken.

Individuals with lower vitamin B12 levels at the start of the study had a greater decrease in brain volume. Those with the lowest B12 levels had a sixfold greater rate of brain volume loss compared with those who had the highest levels of the vitamin.

Interestingly, none of the participants were deficient in vitamin B12, they just had low levels within a normal range.

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