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Study Reports Mild B-12 Deficiency Tied to Dementia

Update Date: Sep 06, 2013 02:36 PM EDT

B-12 is a vitamin that helps promote normal and healthy brain and central nervous system functioning. It is also responsible for blood formation. When people have a B-12 deficiency, some of the symptoms might include diarrhea, loss of appetite, pale skin and shortness of breath, particularly during exercise. Although these symptoms might be mild, suffering from B-12 deficiency is anything but mild. If people are unaware of their condition, the deficiency could lead to nerve damage that causes confusion, depression and a loss of balance. In a new study, researchers discovered that even a mild B-12 deficiency could speed up the process of dementia.

This observational study conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, MA was headed by Martha Savaria Morris, an epidemiologist from the Nutrition Epidemiology Program at the Research Center and colleagues. The research team had analyzed the data from 549 adults who were a part of a cohort of the Framingham Heart study. The participants had an average age of 75 at the beginning of the study and were divided into five sections according to their B-12 blood levels.

The researchers discovered that the last two groups that included participants with the lowest B-12 levels experienced greater mental decline in comparison to the participants from the other three groups over the time span of eight years. Cognitive decline was measured using dementia-screening tests.

"Men and women in the second-lowest group did not fare any better in terms of cognitive decline than those with the worst vitamin B-12 blood levels," Morris said according to Medical Xpress.

Professor Paul Jacques, the study's senior author and director of the HNRCA Nutrition Epidemiology Program added, "While we emphasize our study does not show causation, our associations raise the concern that some cognitive decline may be the result of inadequate vitamin B-12 in older adults, for whom maintaining normal blood levels can be a challenge."

The study's finding that even a mild B-12 deficiency could be detrimental for seniors reiterates the fact that seniors should eat more foods fortified with B-12 or add B-12 supplements to their diet.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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