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Thursday 19th July 2018

Vitamin B12 plays role in dementia

19th October 2010

People who take vitamin B12 have extra protection against dementia, according to a recent Swedish study.

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The researchers found that elderly people who bothered to get adequate levels of the vitamin had lowered levels of an amino acid known to reflect brain degeneration.

In the body, B12 is required for cells to synthesise and maintain their own DNA; without the vitamin, the body cannot maintain its own integrity.

While the finding does not mean that taking B-vitamin supplements will directly alter people's chances of getting Alzheimer's disease, the link between the vitamin and a rogue protein-generating process is too strong for researchers to ignore, especially since many elderly people suffer from low levels of vitamin B12.

Babak Hooshmand, from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said he believed that more research was needed before doctors could make established conclusions about the role of vitamin B12 supplements in neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

For the study, the researchers first examined 271 elderly Finns and found that none of them showed signs of dementia.

Seven years after the initial probe, the researchers did a follow-up study.

They found that 17 of the original study subjects had dementia.

Upon further examining the subjects whose mental functioning had not declined in the meanwhile, the researchers discovered that all of the healthy subjects had healthier levels of holotranscobalamin than the subjects whose mental functioning had gone downhill.

Measuring levels of holotranscobalamin is one of several ways doctors can tell whether or not a patient is getting enough vitamin B12.

Holotranscobalamin levels reflect the amount of vitamin B12 that is actively being used by the body, and require newer technology to study.

Previously, scientists measured levels of vitamin B12 enzymes, but these methods were not sensitive enough to yield useful information in statistical studies like the present study.

Subjects who had dementia also had higher levels of homocysteine than those whose mental functioning had stayed the same.

Homocysteine is an amino acid that the body produces when it tries to do without certain B vitamins, as well as by a common genetic condition.

The amino acid has also been implicated in frequent bone breakage and heart disease.

It is still not clear whether or not vitamin B12 plays a truly causal role in the development of dementia.

Nevertheless, Hooshmand said he believed his team's findings may indicate that the vitamin has an important role in Alzheimer's disease.


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