Did you know that correcting a simple nutrient deficiency that affects an estimated 1 in 2 older individuals could significantly reduce your risk of developing serious cognitive decline?
B12 Deficiency: A Growing Epidemic
According to a report in the Harvard Health Newsletter, vitamin B12 deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the developing world and the U.S. This is bad news since B12 is one of the building blocks your body uses to produce DNA. It also keeps your immune system functioning optimally, regulates mood and sleep cycles, and is crucial to energy production, which is why it’s known as the “energy vitamin.”
Signs and symptoms of a B12 deficiency include the following:
- Low energy and weakness
- Confusion or “fuzziness”
- Persistent sleep problems
- Digestive problems
- Hearing and vision loss
- Memory problems
- Irritability and mood swings
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Weak immune function
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
I recommend vitamin B12 supplementation to my patients, and I am going to recommend it to you as well. Simply put, taking a high-quality B12 supplement can increase your energy and improve your overall state of well-being — and help preserve your brain function as you age.
Vitamin B12 Keeps Your Brain from Shrinking
The cognitive decline associated with aging has been clearly linked to a process in the body that involves a decrease in brain mass. That’s right, your brain actually shrinks as you get older! This reduction in brain mass is directly correlated with Alzheimer’s risk and the associated loss of memory and cognitive function seen in older individuals.
A landmark study conducted in 2010 showed that supplementation with B12 in combination with B6 and folic acid slowed the accelerated rate of brain shrinkage and declining cognitive scores in older individuals with mild cognitive impairment. While B6 and folic acid are readily available in the diet and easily absorbed, B12 is not, and severe B12 deficiency is thought to affect nearly 1 in 2 older adults,[8,9] making proper supplementation critical.
A more recent 2011 study published in the journal Neurologyconfirmed the importance of B12 in brain health among older individuals. It again showed that older individuals with higher levels of B12 in their blood had less shrinkage of the brain than counterparts with lower levels. Those with higher B12 blood levels and increased brain size also scored higher on memory and cognitive tests.
B12 protects your brain and nervous system by keeping nerves healthy and communicating in an optimal manner.[11,12] In addition, one of its most powerful protective properties for the brain is its ability to reduce blood levels of a dangerous metabolite called homocysteine. Homocysteine is a protein naturally formed in the body as a result of metabolism that is commonly correlated with many adverse health affects. Reductions in circulating homocysteine levels as a result of increased blood levels of B12 have been found to reduce the risk of developing serious cognitive decline. Being deficient in B12 puts your brain at serious risk by contributing to age-related brain shrinkage and elevated levels of homocysteine.