Don’t “Lose your Marbles”

As I am nearing age 40, I am reminded of the old phrase “losing my marbles”. It is a scary fact indeed. Memory decline can truly be a frightening part of getting older. There has been much focus on keeping the mind busy by doing puzzles, soduko, crosswords and even video games are being designed to stimulate our brains. But when speaking of “brain fitness”, our focus needs to be on sound nutrition also. Fortunately, we can be thankful that research shows that the right nutrients in the diet can help provide cognitive support. Reports have shown that vitamin B12 may be crucial for preserving the brain.

The brain relies on vitamin B12 because it’s necessary for myelin synthesis, the protective sheath around neurons. Vitamin B12 is also required for detoxifying homocysteine, an amino acid that can be toxic to the brain. Increases in homocysteine were associated with decreased cognitive scores. Normally, people are able to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 from their diets. B12 comes from animal products, especially liver, milk, eggs and poultry. However, as people get older, their stomachs lose the ability to secrete sufficient hydrochloric acid to release B12 from food. Absorption may be further complicated by failure of cells of the stomach lining to secrete intrinsic factor, a protein necessary for binding to B12 enabling it to pass through the wall of the small intestine. The inability to absorb B12 can be difficult to detect eventually leading to deficiency and pernicious anemia, often requiring treatment with B12 injections

So, since new studies have shown that low vitamin B12 is linked to brain shrinkage and thinking problems in the elderly, then should we be using dietary supplementation? Evidence has shown that individuals with lower levels of vitamin B12 are more likely to have smaller brains as revealed by MRI scans and scored poorly on cognitive skills tests. Supplementation could achieve optimal intakes and absorption of vitamin B12. It could also help to reduce the rate of brain decline and protect thinking and memory. Other groups at risk for B12 deficiency are vegans and those with intestinal disorders. So could supplementation hurt?

Studies on vitamin B12 have long established that it is completely safe with no association with any toxicity even when taken in extremely high amounts. Given its potential of guarding the brain, it seems like a “no brainer”. Remember, it’s nothing to “lose our marbles” over!