(NaturalHealth365) Of all the vitamins and minerals we need in order to stay healthy and avoid getting sick, Vitamin D and C sure get a lot of attention. But Vitamin B12 is an essential player in several functions in the body, as well – and being deficient in it can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease later on in life.
Unfortunately, Vitamin B12 deficiency is far more common than doctors and researchers previously thought. Estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture show suggest that nearly 2 out of 5 Americans aren’t getting enough of it.
So, with around 5.7 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s no surprise that many scientists are investigating the link between the harrowing disease and this common vitamin deficiency.
Why Alzheimer’s disease is being linked to a vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that helps your body form red blood cells, synthesize DNA, and maintain proper neurological function. If you or a loved one is deficient in this vitamin, expect to see symptoms like anemia (decreased red blood cells), weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, numbness and tingling in the extremities, poor balance, confusion, poor memory, depression…and yes, dementia.
One theory as to how vitamin B12 deficiency contributes to Alzheimer’s disease is that low levels of this vitamin are associated with an increased level of cytokines. Cytokines are inflammatory molecules found in the blood, and higher levels of them are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin B12 also decreases the level of a different compound known as homocysteine. Homocysteine is high in people with people with Alzheimer’s disease, and taking vitamin B12 reduces the amount of this compound in the blood.
To add insult to injury, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing Vitamin B12 as we age. This turns into a double whammy for many adults – that is, they’re not getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet to begin with, and the vitamin B12 they are getting isn’t being properly absorbed anyway.
Of course, we can never forget the real threat of toxins in our environment. (none of which is good for the brain.)
Action step How to get more vitamin B12 in your diet
We know that vitamin B12 deficiency is correlated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The ‘key point’ is to understand what to do next.
The thing is, the evidence isn’t crystal clear about whether supplementing with vitamin B12 will actually improve memory and cognitive function, even if it improves the levels of cytokines and homocysteine in your blood. One would think so.
But, until more research can be done to clarify this, your best bet is to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet now so you can avoid becoming deficient in the first place.
Here are some quality sources of vitamin B12 – below:
- Fresh, wild clams
- 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef liver
- Wild-caught fish
- Raw milk
- Free-range, organically-produced eggs
- Organic nut milk (e.g., almond milk and coconut milk); a great option for vegans and vegetarians
Keep this in mind: Conventionally speaking, the recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms, with higher levels required for pregnant and lactating women. But, studies have suggested that much greater amounts are needed for those that are B12 deficient. (it’s best to talk to your doctor to see what’s best for you.
Certain people may be at a greater risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, including people with a history of gastrointestinal surgery or trauma, vegans, vegetarians, people with pernicious anemia, and (as mentioned) older adults age 50+.
These ‘at risk’ people may need to add a vitamin B12 supplement to their diet to ensure they’re getting enough of this essential vitamin. But, as we always like to remind our readers, when considering supplementation needs – chat with your doctor first.
Sources used for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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