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Vitamin B12 and the Aging Brain

Another piece of the puzzle on how the brain ages. Vitamin B12 is important for brain health, and higher levels are associated with slower rates of brain changes associated with aging. And the opposite is true with homocysteine levels - increased levels are associated with faster rates of brain changes that are associated with aging (such as higher rates of total brain tissue volume loss). Keep in mind that these effects were modest, but this also raises the question of whether long-term B12 supplementation would benefit everyone or only those with a deficiency? From Medscape:

Vitamin B12 May Slow Brain Aging

Individuals with increased levels of circulating homocysteine have faster rates of brain changes associated with aging than other people, whereas higher levels of vitamin B12 are associated with slower rates of brain aging, new research suggests.

Babak Hooshmand, MD, PhD, Center for Alzheimer Research–Aging Research Center, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues found that total brain volume losses were lower in individuals with higher baseline vitamin B12 levels, whereas the opposite was true of those with increased homocysteine levels.

"Vitamin B12 and tHcy [total homocysteine] might be independent predictors of markers of brain aging in elderly individuals without dementia," the investigators write. They add, "[I]f the association is causal, supplementation with B vitamins may be effective for prevention of brain damage due to increased levels of total homocysteine. Adequately timed and powered randomized clinical trials are needed to determine efficient treatment guidelines." The research was published online April 27 in JAMA Psychiatry.

The researchers examined data on 501 participants aged 60 years and older from the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care, in Kungsholmen. All participants were free of dementia at baseline. Of these, 299 underwent repeated structural brain MRI between 2001 and 2009....Venous blood samples were collected at baseline, from which circulating levels of vitamin B12, red blood cell folate, and sulfur amino acids were determined. These were correlated with changes in brain tissue volumes and total white matter hyperintensity (WMH) over 6 years.

He also pointed to the single-center, randomized VITACOG study, in which 271 individuals older than 70 years who had mild cognitive impairment received supplementation with high-dose folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. "They lost less brain compared to people who had normal homocysteine and normal vitamin levels, meaning that those with high levels of homocysteine or with clinical or biochemical vitamin deficiency can benefit from supplementation," said Dr Hooshmand.

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