Numerous medical studies have supported the idea that a deficiency in vitamin B12 and Folic acid can lead to problems of memory as well as other neurologic symptoms including Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Can supplementation of vitamin B12 and Folic acid help support brain function in the elderly? Let’s let the research speak for itself.
Vitamin deficiency is one of the major causes of treatable dementia
Let’s start off with a November 2020 paper in the medical journal Nutrients.(1) “A diet rich in antioxidant vitamins can improve the cognitive functions of patients. Thanks to an adequate intake of B vitamins, homocysteine levels are reduced, which indirectly protects against the development of the disease. A properly balanced diet, as well as the use of appropriate supplementation, can contribute to improving the clinical condition of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.”
A recent study published in the journal Brain and nerve (2) suggests that: “Vitamin deficiency is one of the major causes of treatable dementia. Specifically, patients suffering from dementia frequently display low serum levels of vitamin B12. (In addition) Folate (Folic Acid) deficiency causes various neuropsychiatric symptoms, which resemble those observed in vitamin B12 deficiency.” Folic Acid is the synthetic form of Folate, it is also called vitamin B9. Most of you will recognize the importance of folic acid in prenatal care. Folic acid is also important in helping to make red blood cells that bring oxygen to the brain. It is often suggested to people suffering from anemia.
Controversy surrounding vitamin B12 and folate
There are some studies to suggest that vitamin B12 and folate do not help cognitive decline. While other studies do. In November 2019, in the journal Clinical Nutrition (3), doctors wrote: “Vitamin B12 and folic acid supplementation did not reduce cognitive decline in older people with Mild cognitive impairment and elevated serum homocysteine, though the cognitive decline over two years in placebo group was small.” The paper also noted: “The B vitamins supplement led to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms at month 12, though this effect was not sustained. Aspirin use had a negative interaction effect on cognitive functioning with B supplements.” So there were factors at play here that lead to a less successful outcome.
Vitamin deficiency may reduce brain volume
Doctors in India, including that of the Department of Neurology, King George Medical University wrote in the journal Magnetic resonance imaging (4): “We conclude that brain networks associated with cognition control are altered in patients with vitamin B12 deficiency, which partially recover following six weeks of replacement therapy.” The reason for this study’s appearance in an MRI journal was that this research team was able to demonstrate by resting state functional MRI a clinical neuropsychological evaluation in patients with brain networks that appeared to be restoring.
MRI documented brain atrophy was also noted in a 2011 study from researchers at Rush University. The study published in the journal Neurology (5) reported that vitamin B12 deficiency could be responsible for reduced brain volume.
However, a July 2020 study (6) suggests that their results “did not reveal significant associations between biochemical markers and cognitive function, global or regional brain volume, cortical thickness or cortical surface area, neither in controls nor in Alzheimer’s disease patients.” However again, “The present results do not exclude such effects of B12 and folate supplementation in individuals with vitamin deficiency.” The topic is confused.
Vitamin deficiency is treatable and may help reverse cognitive decline
A January 2019 study in the International journal of molecular sciences (7) emphasizes the importance of supplementing vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin), vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) in early stages of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This research lead by the Institute for Academic Medicine Houston Methodist Research Institute also noted that 20% of people over 70 and 40% of people over age 80 are are vitamin B12 deficient.
Researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (8) say Vitamin B12, folate, and sulfur amino acids (Methionine, cysteine, homocysteine, and taurine) may be modifiable risk factors for structural brain changes that precede clinical dementia and that that both vitamin B12 and total homocysteine concentrations may be related to accelerated aging of the brain.
A July 2020 study (9) added to this by saying: recent advances in epigenetic (the change in DNA molecular structure for example) research have enabled the development of epigenetic clocks, (a biochemical test that can be used to measure age) which have greatly enhanced our ability to investigate molecular processes that contribute to aging and age-related disease. These biomarkers offer the potential to measure the effect of environmental exposures linked to dynamic changes in DNA methylation, including nutrients, as factors in age-related disease. They also offer a compelling insight into how imbalances in the supply of nutrients, particularly B-vitamins may influence epigenetic age
There are many causes of Alzheimer’s Disease – Vitamin deficiency is part of the puzzle
A recent study published in the online journal, Public Library of Science One (PLOS One) (10) found that Vitamin B12 levels in the brain are significantly decreased in the elderly. What is interesting in this study is that the researchers suggest vitamin B12 leaves the brain in aging people to help fortify weakened and diminished anti-oxidant levels throughout the body. It is a case of body preservation over brain preservation.
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, we approach disease and imbalance by first determining all contributing factors and creating an individualized, patient-centered treatment plan. The latest research has shown that there are a host of factors that can cause and contribute to Alzheimer’s- from environmental toxins to nutrition to heavy metal toxicity and more. Every person has a unique biochemistry which reacts to pollutants and toxins differently, and requires an individualized course of treatment. While the disease may look similar from person to person, we are not treating the disease. We are healing the individual.
In order to determine the unique contributing factors of each individual, we utilize extremely thorough blood and urine tests, as well as a complete examination of every aspect of the body, from mitochondrial function to heavy metal toxicity and more. We then create a personalized care plan based on these findings,which may include treatments such as chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, antioxidant nutritional supplements, intravenous vitamins, diet and nutrition.
If you would like to explore more information, please contact our office so we can start a conversation with you.
1 Mielech A, Puścion-Jakubik A, Markiewicz-Żukowska R, Socha K. Vitamins in Alzheimer’s Disease—Review of the Latest Reports. Nutrients. 2020 Nov;12(11):3458.
2 Yoshizawa T1. Treatable Dementia due to Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiency. Brain Nerve. 2016 Apr;68(4):407-20. doi: 10.11477/mf.1416200414.
3 Kwok T, Wu Y, Lee J, et al. A randomized placebo-controlled trial of using B vitamins to prevent cognitive decline in older mild cognitive impairment patients [published online ahead of print, 2019 Nov 20]. Clin Nutr. 2019;S0261-5614(19)33132-2. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2019.11.005
4 Gupta L, Gupta RK, Gupta PK. Assessment of brain cognitive functions in patients with vitamin B12 deficiency using resting state functional MRI: A longitudinal study. Magn Reson Imaging. 2016 Feb;34(2):191-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2015.10.026. Epub 2015 Oct 31
5 Tangney CC, et al “Vitamin B12, cognition, and brain MRI measures: A cross-sectional examination” Neurology 2011; 77: 1276–1282.
6 Rabensteiner J, Hofer E, Fauler G, et al. The impact of folate and vitamin B12 status on cognitive function and brain atrophy in healthy elderly and demented Austrians, a retrospective cohort study [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jul 24]. Aging (Albany NY). 2020;12:10.18632/aging.103714. doi:10.18632/aging.103714
7 Román, G. C., Mancera-Páez, O., & Bernal, C. (2019). Epigenetic Factors in Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: MTHFR and CTH Gene Polymorphisms, Metabolic Transsulfuration and Methylation Pathways, and B Vitamins. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(2), 319. doi:10.3390/ijms20020319
8 Hooshmand B, Mangialasche F, Kalpouzos G, Solomon A, Kåreholt I, Smith D, Refsum H, Wang R, Mühlmann M, Ertl-Wagner B, Laukka EJ, Bäckman L, Fratiglioni L, Kivipelto M. Association of Vitamin B12, Folate, and Sulfur Amino Acids With Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging Measures in Older Adults: A Longitudinal Population-Based Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 27
9 Amenyah SD, Ward M, Strain JJ, et al. Nutritional Epigenomics and Age-Related Disease. Curr Dev Nutr. 2020;4(7):nzaa097. Published 2020 Jun 6. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzaa097
10 Yiting Zhang, Nathaniel W. Hodgson, Malav S. Trivedi, Hamid M. Abdolmaleky, Margot Fournier, Michel Cuenod, Kim Quang Do, Richard C. Deth. Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (1): e0146797 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0146797