17 July 2015

Vitamin B12 supplements may be the answer for some

A study has found that the vitamin B12 supplement may not be helpful to some seniors. It seems to work only when deficiency of the nutrient is severe, study finds.

Vitamin B12 supplements are known to benefit seniors with severe B12 deficiency, but they may not help those who are just moderately deficient, a new study suggests.

"Many people may be taking vitamin B12 supplements on a regular basis, and it has been thought they would enhance function in older people," said study author Dr. Alan Dangour, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "Our study found no evidence of benefit for nervous system or cognitive function from 12 months of supplementation among older people with moderate vitamin B12 deficiency."

Read: Could too little Vitamin B-12 shrink the ageing brain?

B12 is found in fish, meat, chicken and dairy products.

"We advise older people concerned about their health and [mental] function to eat a diverse and healthy diet, keep [mentally] active and when possible take regular physical activity," Dangour said in a school news release.

The study was published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In elderly people with severe B12 deficiency, supplementation reduces their risk for related muscle weakness, fatigue, depression, memory and movement impairment, and general thinking difficulties, the researchers say.

The study team focused on more than 200 people, all over 75 years old, with moderate B12 deficiency. For a year, all received either a B12 supplement or a dummy pill.

Although the researchers could identify no mental or neurological improvements attributable to B12 supplementation, they acknowledged the dose of B12 might have been too low to affect function. They said it's also possible the study period was too short to detect any impact.

Read more:

To B12 or not B12?

How much vitamin B12 do you need?

Acid-reflux meds tied to B12 deficiency

Sources: U.S. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.


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