Low Vitamin B12 Linked to Cognitive Decline

We’ve seen much information in recent years about the relationship between the B vitamins, especially B12, and cognitive function. But a new study fills in details about the mechanisms connecting low B12 levels and declining cognitive health. And one of the study’s authors has suggested that, while there is already a general recommendation for older adults to supplement with B12, there may be cause to advise middle age adults to do the same.

The mechanisms of cognitive decline associated with low levels of B12 include brain atrophy and cerebral infarcts (=blood flow blockage leading to tissue death). Other recent research has suggested that supplementing with B12 may slow brain atrophy as we age, so the current study linking low B12 levels to greater degrees of brain atrophy is not a big surprise.

The Institute of Medicine, an organization that establishes recommended daily allowances for vitamins, currently advises older adults to supplement with Vitamin B12, since seniors frequently are deficient in the vitamin due to declining ability to absorb nutrients. But according to one of the current study’s authors, it may make sense to screen adults for B12 deficiency even before they reach senior status, and address early signs of deficiency with supplementation.

NYBC stocks Vitamin B12 as in a highly absorbable form:

Methylcobabalmin

Also available is the B-complex:
B-right (Jarrow)

For more information about the B12 research on cognitive decline, see: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/GeneralNeurology/28740

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Low Vitamin D linked to cognitive decline in the elderly

Vitamin D may be best recognized for its role in helping the body absorb calcium, which maintains bone strength and thus protects against osteoporosis and fracture.

But low Vitamin D levels have also been connected in recent research to higher cardiovascular risk (especially risk of stroke), higher risk of certain kinds of cancer (such as colorectal cancer), and even higher risk of coming down with a cold or the flu.

Now here’s still more news about Vitamin D’s impact on health: two new studies “add to the evidence that older people with low levels of Vitamin D may be more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment.”

One study looked at about 150 people aged 70 and older living on their own. All were given a standard 30-point test that is used to screen for cognitive impairment. Results showed that the lower the participants’ Vitamin D levels, the lower their score on the test.

The second study involved 752 women, aged 75 and older, of whom 129 had vitamin D levels that were below 10 nanograms per milliliter, indicating Vitamin D deficiency. (Vitamin D deficiency is generally quite common among older women.) Those with this low level of the vitamin were found to be about twice as likely to have cognitive impairment, as measured by a standard test of cognitive skills, as those with higher Vitamin D levels.

These studies do show an interesting correlation between low Vitamin D levels and cognitive impairment. But now researchers are planning specific studies to see whether supplementing with Vitamin D can improve the symptoms of people with Parkinson’s disease, or decrease the chances that healthy older people will develop cognitive impairment or dementia. We’ll certainly stay tuned!

The two studies were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. We read about them first in an online article at the site WebMD: “Low Vitamin D Level Tied to Cognitive Decline Study Shows Elderly People With Higher Vitamin D Levels Performed Better on Mental Tests.”

See the NYBC entries on Vitamin D for further information: http://www.newyorkbuyersclub.org

New findings on fish oil’s mechanism against Alzheimer’s

Here’s a Jan. 2, 2008 post on the www.sciencedaily.com website reporting on new findings on the mechsnism of action of fish oil as a deterrent to Alzheimer’s Disease.

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Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and associate director of UCLA’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center, and his colleagues report that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil increases the production of LR11, a protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer’s patients and which is known to destroy the protein that forms the “plaques” associated with the disease.

The plaques are deposits of a protein called beta amyloid that is thought to be toxic to neurons in the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s. Since having high levels of LR11 prevents the toxic plaques from being made, low levels in patients are believed to be a factor in causing the disease.

The researchers examined the effects of fish oil, or its component DHA, in multiple biological systems and administered the oil or fatty acid by diet and by adding it directly to neurons grown in the laboratory.

“We found that even low doses of DHA increased the levels of LR11 in rat neurons, while dietary DHA increased LR11 in brains of rats or older mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Cole, who is also associate director of the Geriatric Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To show that the benefits of DHA were not limited to nonhuman animal cells, the researchers also confirmed a direct impact of DHA on human neuronal cells in culture as well. Thus, high levels of DHA leading to abundant LR11 seem to protect against Alzheimer’s, Cole said, while low LR11 levels lead to formation of the amyloid plaques.

 Quite an interesting supplement, fish oil. The first focus on its health benefits was directed at heart health and cardiovascular concerns. However, more recently there has been a lot of investigative energy devoted to the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on cognitive function and mood.

See, for example, the posts on “Depression” on this blog, which detail some of the recent findings about fish oil’s potential for addressing mood.

The New York Buyers’ Club stocks

DHA Max (Jarrow). See description here.