Vitamin B12, a nutrient found in meat, fish and milk, may protect against brain volume loss in older people, according to a University of Oxford study.
In our diets, Vitamin B-12 is found most commonly in meats, fish, fortified cereals, and dairy. Experts from the Mayo Clinic note that elderly are most at risk of diseases as a side effect of B-12 deficiency.
The Oxford study found that people who had higher vitamin B12 levels were six times less likely to experience brain shrinkage compared with those who had lower levels of the vitamin in their blood. None of the people in the study had vitamin B12 deficiency. The study was conducted over five years and published in the journal of Neurology.
Studies found that deficiencies themselves can lead to anemia and abnormal neurological and psychiatric symptoms, with the elderly and strict vegetarians most at risk. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have been found with abnormally low B12 levels, the Mayo Clinic reports.
It isn’t clear whether vitamin supplements are metabolized as successfully as the vitamin found naturally in food. Thus, recommendations are to increase intake of healthy foods where B12 is found: low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, shellfish, chicken breast, turkey, hard-boiled eggs, salmon, and raisin bran.
The Oxford study’s author, Anna Vogiatzoglou, noted that vitamin B12 deficiencies are “a public health problem, especially among the elderly” and that consumption of the vitamin could help to reduce the risk of brain shrinkage.
“Many factors that affect brain health are thought to be out of our control,” she said, “but 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.”