Vitamin B12, Your Body and Your Brain

Vitamin B12 helps keep your nerve and blood cells healthy and is needed to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Weakness, nerve and balance problems, and in some cases, a form of anaemia (megaloblastic), can occur with deficiency. Running low on B12 can also result in confusion and poor memory.

According to vitamin B12 expert, Irwin Rosenberg of Tufts University, “the symptoms of B12 Deficiency overlap with those of Alzheimer’s disease… That raises the question of whether similar nutrition factors contribute to Alzheimer’s or its symptoms.” A direct link between vitamin B12 levels and dementia still remains elusive, because not all studies have confirmed this relationship.

New research, however, suggests that the B12 brain connection may have merit. University of Oxford researchers recently reported that supplementing B12 in concert with folic acid and B6 over a 2-year period “appear to slow cognitive and clinical decline in people with mild cognitive impairment, in particular those with elevated homocysteine”(1). Too little B12 can cause homocysteine to accumulate, and high levels of this amino acid have been associated with some dementias.

Older people with low levels of vitamin B12 may be more prone to brain shrinkage, according to investigators at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. Most of us are aware that people can shrink in height as they age, Well, the brain, too, shrinks naturally with age, and it seems that those with the greatest reductions in brain volume are most at risk for Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementias. In this study, people with markers of vitamin B12 deficiency had smaller brain volume and lower scores on tests measuring thinking, reasoning and memory.(2)

GNLD’s Lipotropic Adjunct is specially developed to assist in lowering homocysteine levels as it contains folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12, which are all critical micronutrients in homocysteine metabolism. Other Vitamin B12 containing products are: Formula IV and Formula IV Plus, Multi, Vitamin B Co. (SR) and Vitamin B Complex, as well as Nutrishake and GR2 Control Meal Replacement Shake.

Be B12 Smart

Some studies have shown that 15-30% of older people are low in B12, mostly because they produce less stomach acid (required to separate B12 from the protein to which it’s attached in food). The Institute of Medicine advises that people over 50 get most of their vitamin B12 from dietary supplements and fortified foods because in these sources, B12 is not bound to protein and is more easily absorbed.

Vitamin B12 – Who Needs it & Why

Who Should Be Aware of B12 Shortfalls?

Why are Supplements Important?

Everyone over 50 Many older adults don’t produce enough stomach acid to absorb the B12 naturally present in food


People who have had gastrointestinal surgery such as weight loss surgery, or digestive disorders like Celiac or Crohn’s diseases


These conditions (or behaviour) can decrease the amount of vitamin B12 that the body can absorb.
Those who eat little or no animal foods, such as vegans and vegetarians. Only animal foods contain vitamin B12 naturally. (When pregnant women and women who breastfeed their babies are strict vegetarians or vegans, their babies might also not get enough vitamin B12


Users of certain medications

  • The antibiotic chloramphenicol
  • Proton pump inhibitors (e.g. Pevacid) used to treat acid reflux and peptic ulcers
  • Histamine H2 receptor antagonists (e.g. Tagamet) for peptic ulcers.
  • Metformin, a common diabetes drug
These medications can interfere with the body’s absorption or use of vitamin B12

People with pernicious anaemia.


Inability to make intrinsic factor with is needed to absorb vitamin B12. Doctors usually treat this anaemia with B12 shots. Affects 1-2% of older adults.


1. de Jager CA et al. Cognitive and clinical outcomes of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamin treatment in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry [eEpub ahead of print, July 2011]

2. Tangney CC et al. Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures: A cross-sectional examination. Neurol 77:1276-82, 2011.



Filed under Health & Wellness

2 responses to “Vitamin B12, Your Body and Your Brain

  1. Good info!
    B12 is the one vitamin that I always suggest to vegans, but it’s not hard to get your 2.5mcg/day from fortified cereals or plant-based milk. Healthy people can take a B12 supplement once or twice a week since the liver is efficient at storing, but if you have an absorption issue storage is not as efficient.


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