How Vitamin B12 Impacts Brain Health

Vitamin B12 has been proven to promote long-term brain health, with deficiencies in the vitamin linked to depression, dementia and other forms of mental impairment. Here we examine the benefits of vitamin B12 and how to ensure you are getting an adequate amount as part of a healthy diet.

The majority of people are not deficient in vitamin B12. The top, reliable sources of B12 can be found in animal proteins, including meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs. However, vitamin deficiencies can arise as aging stomachs lose the ability to absorb the nutrients from food. In order to absorb B12 naturally, stomach acid must have an adequate amount of the enzyme pepsin and the gastric protein, intrinsic factor, which allows vitamin B12 to be separated from the food source before absorption. Aging may lead to a gradual decrease in the number of acid-producing cells, a condition known as atrophic gastritis – it is estimated that between 10 and 30 percent of adults over 50 have too little stomach acid to absorb B12.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause an individual to act emotionally unstable or outside of their normal behaviors. Along with deficiencies in B vitamin folate, it can also lead to severe depression, dementia or other cognitive impairments. A lack of vitamin B12 can also result in an extreme lack of energy and changes in mood.

For individuals diagnosed with low B12 levels, high-dose injections of the vitamin can quickly reverse symptoms. Supplying vitamin B12 to individuals with B12 deficiency has also been shown to protect areas of the brain that are typically affected by Alzheimer’s disease, highlighting its importance in protecting the brain against symptoms of cognitive decline.

It can take years before major symptoms of B12 deficiency become apparent. If you are concerned about your B12 absorption, consult your primary physician to set-up a B12 test.

For individuals with low levels of B12, there are different ways to incorporate a greater amount of B12 into your diet. Dietary supplements or foods fortified with B12 can both help boost B12 levels, as they contain a synthetic version of B12 that is easily absorbed by the body because it bypasses the need for stomach acid. High-dose injections can also be offered in accordance with your physician’s recommendations.

Although it is good to be aware of the effects of B12 deficiency, it is important to remember that the majority of people are not affected by it. The Cognitive Therapeutics Team recommends focusing on a healthy lifestyle plan for long-term brain health, consisting of a balanced diet, 15 minutes of physical activity 3 times a week, mentally-stimulating activities and meditation to promote calm.