A Deficiency of This Nutrient Can Damage Your Brain
December 5th, 2014 by NHI
“It was as though a blanket of fog was lifted from her brain, and her personality reappeared.”
So commented the relative of an 83 year old woman who overcame dementia. She can now live independently, enjoy an active social life, and read books in three languages.
All her mental health issues were resolved by restoring tissue levels of a single vitamin. Keep reading and I’ll explain. . .
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Deficiency of this nutrient is common. According to some estimates it could affect up to 40% of the population and even more among the elderly. So it’s of paramount importance to make sure you get enough. It’s critical for neurological function and blood formation.
The vitamin in question is B12.
B12 Is Difficult To Absorb
It’s generally believed that only vegetarians can be low in B12 since this vitamin is found almost entirely in animal foods, but this isn’t the case. Meat eaters can be deficient even when exceeding the recommended daily intake of 2.4 micrograms.
That’s because the absorption of B12 is a complex process that requires the digestive system to be in a very healthy state. It needs an abundant supply of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and intrinsic factor – a protein produced by the parietal cells of the stomach.
Inflammatory processes, bacterial overgrowth, disorders and diseases of the gastrointestinal system, or previous gastric surgery can all reduce absorption of B12.
Some medications can also lower the body’s ability to take up B12. In particular metformin – prescribed for diabetes – is a problem. Also implicated in poor B12 absorption are the acid reflux or GERD drugs called proton pump inhibitors and H2-receptor antagonists.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of B12 deficiency are varied and can be absent altogether. The most common are fatigue, pins and needles, numbness, lack of muscle co-ordination, abnormal gait, ‘brain fog’, depression, memory loss and dementia. But there are many others. Doctors may not suspect a B12 deficiency from symptoms alone.
There are also limitations and shortcomings in the diagnostic tests used to assess B12 status. This means a person may suffer neurological signs of deficiency yet have blood markers in the normal range. Deficiency may not show up in any of the tests used.
These blood tests for nutrient levels should be taken with a grain of salt anyway. They can be valuable, but too often the “normal” ranges are merely the average levels for people in your age group. So if the average person is low in a given nutrient, it’s considered “normal.” And believe me, there are MANY nutrients in which the typical person in America and elsewhere is deficient.
Studies Link Deficiency with
Poorer Cognition and Brain Shrinkage
The evidence that B12 deficiency increases the risk of developing dementia has been growing. Among the common vitamins and minerals we all know about – the ones that are typically found in multis – B12 is the one most likely to reverse the symptoms of memory loss or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
A study of 107 healthy people aged 61 – 87 were given a battery of tests over a five year period. Those with the lowest B12 status were over six times more likely to have brain shrinkage, a condition that is associated with dementia.
An extensive range of memory tests, cognition tests and MRI scans were given to 121 people aged 65 or older. Those with the lowest B12 scored worse on the tests, had smaller brain volumes and less white matter, which indicates a loss of motor function.
Lead researcher Christine Tangney said, “Every single marker of low vitamin B12 was correlated with low brain volume. If, as an older person, you start experiencing problems with memory, it would be smart for you to talk to your physician about whether you’re getting enough B12 in your diet and through supplements.”
Over 50? Supplements Recommended
Because of the possible lack of symptoms and the difficulty of diagnosis, some researchers recommend all people over 50 take B12 supplements. These don’t require the complex digestive processes that are needed when B12 is bound to food. B12 is also available as a patch absorbed through the skin or as a sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablet or spray.
All methods are effective.
B12 is available in three forms, cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin or methylcobalamin.
Integrative doctors almost always recommend the methyl form as this is more metabolically active than the others. It may also be the only form that is effective. I take sublingual methylcobalmin myself, 1000 mcg every day.
Your body converts cyanocobalamin to methylcobalimin. So, in effect, when you take methylcobalimin, you’re taking “predigested” B12 and it’s absorbed much faster. Cyanocobalimin does get absorbed, albeit at a slower rate, so you can kind of look at cyanocobalamin as a “timed release” form of B12. People suffering from mild cognitive impairment may benefit from (and enjoy) the quicker jolt you get from taking the methyl form.
The 83-year-old mentioned earlier overcame dementia using the methyl form. When this was switched to the hydroxo form, her dementia returned. Reverting back to methylcobalamin restored her mental health.
If you choose to take a B12 supplement, methylcobalamin is the preferred option as far as my team’s research has been able to determine.
Lee Euler, Publisher