Don’t forget vitamin B12 for keeping your mind sharp
Staying healthy is a juggling act of managing your exercise routine, eating well and making time for a social life. All these factors have an effect on your cognitive function as you age.
However, recent studies have found that one vitamin, in particular, is essential for protecting your brain against future memory loss and dementia - Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble essential vitamin found mainly in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. It can also be found in supplements and fortified foods, like breakfast cereals, grains, and soy products – which are great options for vegetarians or vegans, as well as people over the age of 50 who can struggle to process enough of the vitamin to reap its health benefits.
European researchers have found that giving B12 to people deficient in the vitamin can help protect many of the areas of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s disease.
In a two-year study by the University of Oxford of 270 people older than 70 with mild cognitive impairment and low B12 levels, Dr Helga Refsum, a professor of nutrition at the University of Oslo, found reduced cerebral atrophy in those treated with high doses of the vitamin.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness and loss of reflexes, which may progress to confusion, depression, memory loss and dementia as the deficiency grows more severe. Megaloblastic anemia - a blood disorder in which the number of red blood cells is lower than normal - is also a common and serious illness associated with B12 deficiency.
However, a daily dose of B12 along with folic acid may help prevent the onset of mood disorders, dementias and anaemia.
The recommended dose for adults is 2.4 micrograms daily and slightly more (2.6 to 2.8 mg) for women who are pregnant or nursing. But you don’t have to worry about overdoing it. As it’s a water-soluble vitamin, your body will only absorb a small amount of it and excrete the rest.