September 08, 2008
Low Vitamin B-12 Seems To Cause Faster Brain Shrinkage

Keep up your vitamin B-12 levels so that your brain doesn't shrink any faster than it has to. Oh, and we really need gene therapies, stem cell therapies, and some nanobot therapies to repair and rejuvenate aging brains so that they do not shrink at all.

Older people with lower than average vitamin B12 levels were more than six times more likely to experience brain shrinkage, researchers concluded.

The University of Oxford study, published in the journal Neurology, tested the 107 apparently healthy volunteers over a five-year period.

So now the question is whether supplements could slow brain shrinkage and keep us smarter longer. Aging of the digestive tract will prevent at least some elderly from absorbing enough B-12 however and for them periodic B-12 injections are needed.

Professor David Smith, who directs the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing, said he now planned a trial of B vitamins in the elderly to see if taking them could slow brain shrinkage.

This makes eating fish a two-fer. You get B-12 plus omega 3 fatty acids. Both help the brain. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce occurrence of brain lesions.

Oh, and like so many things these days, there's a genetic angle. The FUT2 gene

Boston, MA - Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and their collaborators at Tufts University and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have identified a common genetic influence on B12 vitamin levels in the blood, suggesting a new way to approach the biological connections between an important biochemical variable and deficiency-related diseases.

"The news here is the discovery of a robust genetic predictor of vitamin B12 levels," said David Hunter, the Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention and director of the Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the study. "This is an example of the way we're going to understand more about how levels of vitamins and other nutrients in the body are partially determined by genetic factors as well as by what we eat."

But the FUT2 gene only accounted for a small portion of the variation of blood plasma B12 levels. But that could be important.

In the study, the FUT2 genetic variant accounted for about three percent of the variation in B12 plasma levels, Hazra said.

6 or 7 years from now most of us will know our personal genetic profiles and we'll know which nutrients we need to make special efforts to get more or less of. Nutrigenomics is coming to the mainstream soon.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 September 08 08:17 PM  Aging Diet Brain Studies

Brett Bellmore said at September 9, 2008 4:32 AM:

I should note that, the last time I looked at charts on omega 3 fatty acid and mercury levels in fish, I found that most of the fish species you'll find in the grocery are either lousy sources of omega 3's, or uncomfortably high in mercury. Salmon, especially canned, was the real standout on both scales. If you're eating any other fish, you're probably fooling yourself about getting much omega 3.

Purified fish oil is the way to go, unless you've got some odd conviction about not using supplements.

Jake said at September 9, 2008 9:30 AM:

B-12 injections are unnecessary.

B-12 lozenges placed under the tongue are effective for the elderly who cannot absorb B-12 through the gut.

Jerry Martinson said at September 21, 2008 11:47 PM:

I've heard of several cases of old people going off-the-rails nutty when their B12 gets low. I've heard that often the damage is semi-permanent. In fact, of all save one of the cases I know of, the victims of low-B12 ended up in a nursing home for mental reasons within 6 months of their low B12. I wonder how common this is and whether the relationship between low-B12 and going in a home is causal. We could be missing out on a very simple and inexpensive medical intervention that could delay dementia in a tiny but easy to treat portion of the older population.

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