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Vitamin B12 Deficiency Linked to Brain Shrinkage

A new study from researchers at the University of Oxford found that maintaining a diet high in vitamin B12 may help reduce the risk of brain shrinkage and cognitive decline.

The study followed 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87. Blood samples were collected from the participants in order to measure vitamin B12, holotranscobalamin (holoTC), methylmalonic acid, homocysteine, and folate levels. Brain volume was then measured using MRI scans. The results are published the September 9th issue of the Journal of Neurology.

The study found a greater level of brain volume loss among participants with low levels of vitamin B12 compared to those with higher levels. In fact, participants who fell below the healthy level (B12 levels below 308 picomoles per liter) were six times more likely to experience brain shrinkage. Brain shrinkage has been linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

The researchers found no correlation between brain shrinkage and high levels of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine, or low levels of folate.

According to the study's author, this research is particularly important because it is one of the first vitamin B12 studies to focus specifically on older adults. The results seem to indicate that older adults may be able to protect themselves against brain shrinkage and neuro-degenerative diseases by including more vitamin B12 in their diets.

Good dietary sources of the vitamin include meat, fish and dairy products. Quality nutritional supplements are an alternative to food sources and can also help you maintain B12 levels.

This is not the first research to find a link between low levels of vitamin B12 and cognitive decline. In 2007 a University of Oxford study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high vitamin B12 levels may reduce the rate of age-related cognitive decline and dementia by 30 percent.

A simple blood test at the doctor's office can let you know what your B12 levels are.
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