B12 – Are you getting enough for your brain and your bones?

  • 13 Aug 2010
  • Reading time 8 mins
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B12 is one of the most commonly deficient vitamins, affecting your whole body, from brain to bone. The older you are the more you need. B12 deficiency is extremely common among people over the age of 60 but it appears that even levels in the low–normal range may be harmful.

B12 is vital for keeping your memory sharp
In a study of 61 to 87 year olds, the lower the level of B12 the greater was the brain size shrinkage.[1] Two in five people over age 61 had a level of B12 that was associated with accelerated brain shrinkage and memory decline. None of these subjects were diagnosed as classically B12 deficient. However, the lower your B12 status, the worse is a person’s memory scores. Less B12 means higher homocysteine levels and the higher a person’s homocysteine level the greater is their risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s.[2,3]

However, low B12 status is rarely properly checked for and there are good grounds for making it a routine test, along with homocysteine, for anyone over the age of 60. This is because its ability to be absorbed becomes worse with age. The usual means of checking is to measure one’s plasma B12 levels, but this is a very crude measure and it is becoming clear that having a level in the low end of the so-called ‘normal’ range is associated with worsening memory.

Testing your B12 status
In fact, in Japan they treat a level below 500ng/l; in the UK, the cut off point is often 150ng/l. Much more accurate is a test called MMA (methylmalonic acid), which is a more reliable marker for B12 deficiency and becomes high if you are deficient. Another alternative is to test HoloTransCobalamin(HoloTC) which, if low, indicates deficiency. An MMA test is more widely available. This chemical only accumulates if you are deficient in B12, or not using it efficiently.

If you want to be sure of your B12 status it is best to get your MMA level tested. This should be below 0.37mol/l. If your homocysteine level is also high it is wise to assume you are not getting enough vitamin B12. My on-line 100% Health check works out your likelihood of being vitamin B12 deficient.

The Osteoporosis Connection
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