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Could Too Little Vitamin B-12 Shrink the Aging Brain?

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  • carmen_cebs
    Could Too Little Vitamin B-12 Shrink the Aging Brain? Deficiency may affect thinking skills, but not enough evidence to advise supplements, experts say Monday,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2011
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      Could Too Little Vitamin B-12 Shrink the Aging Brain?
      Deficiency may affect thinking skills, but not enough evidence to advise supplements, experts say
      Monday, September 26, 2011
      MONDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Too little vitamin B-12 may be associated with smaller brain size and more problems with thinking skills as people age, new research suggests.
      And the number of people who suffer from B-12 deficiencies may be greater than thought because current methods for measuring levels of the vitamin may not be accurate, said Christine C. Tangney, lead author of the study published in the Sept. 27 issue of Neurology. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
      The researchers assessed the study participants' vitamin levels not only from B-12 levels themselves, but from blood metabolites that are considered markers of B-12 activity (or lack of it) in the tissues.
      But the findings aren't nearly enough to start recommending people take B-12 supplements to jumpstart their brains, cautioned Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology of Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. Gordon was not involved with the study.
      "It's not clear exactly if you have a measurement like this whether it's causal or that lowering the marker will drive a change in the risk," he said.
      And unless you're a strict vegan, most people do get enough B-12, which is critical for brain health, from their diet -- mainly from animal-derived products, added Gordon, who is also an Alzheimer's researcher at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.
      B-12 is critical for brain health but can become an issue as people get older because the body becomes less able to absorb it. Also, certain drugs can affect absorption. These include proton pump inhibitors, widely used to reduce stomach acid, and the hugely popular diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage). . . .

      "This suggests that measuring B-12 levels in itself is not enough to tell if a person is deficient or not," Tangney said. "We need to be careful and think about other indicators."
      If a person's B-12 levels are borderline normal, it might be reasonable to check other measures, said Gordon.
      Tangney said the study results suggest that B-12 deficiencies contribute to brain atrophy (shrinkage), which in turn can contribute to cognitive problems. However, she also warned against making dietary changes or drawing too-firm conclusions from these findings, noting that they were based on data from only a small number of people.
      SOURCES: Christine C. Tangney, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical nutrition, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Marc L. Gordon, M.D., chief of neurology, Zucker Hillside Hospital and Alzheimer's researcher, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, N.Y.; Sept. 27, 2011, Neurology
      http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_116858.html
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