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Fighting Shrinkage – Part Two: Could Vitamin B12 Be Linked to Brain Size?

Baked Salmon- High in Vitamin B12 Have you noticed a lot of talk about shrinkage lately? No, not laundry shrinkage or the male “shrinkage” Elaine Benes learned about on an episode of Seinfeld, but brain shrinkage.  

A bevy of reports have broached this issue. For instance, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that alcohol consumption expedited the brain shrinkage process, whether the consumption was heavy or moderate. A Northwestern University study discovered that chronic back pain shrinks the brain 10 to 20 times faster than normal. And

just this past July, a team of researchers from the University of Kansas said their study indicates moderate exercise can slow the rate of brain shrinkage in people with Alzheimer’s (see my article, “Fighting Shrinkage”).

A bevy of reports have broached this issue.  For instance, John Hopkins BIoomberg School of Public Health found that alcohol consumption expedited the brain shrinkage process, whether the consumption was heavy or moderate.  A Northwestern University study discovered that chronic back pain shrinks the brain 10 to 20 times faster than normal.  And just this past July, a team of researchers from the University of Kansas said their study indicates moderate exercise can slow the rate of brain shrinkage in people with Alzheimer’s (see my article, “Fighting Shrinkage”). 

The latest word in how best to shirk shrinkage?  Start consuming more vitamin B, B12 to be specific.

The British study, published in the journal Neurology, recruited 107 volunteers, all of whom were senior citizens (average age:  73) and with no history of mental disability or impairment.  The researchers performed brain scans (MRIs, to be specific) on each of the participants and also took each participant’s blood to get an idea of how much vitamin B12 they were getting from their diet.  They performed these tests fairly regularly over the course of several years and placed each participant into one of three groups according to their blood tests: high vitamin B12 levels, middle vitamin B12 levels and low vitamin B12 levels.

By the study’s conclusion, the researchers found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin B12 had the most significant amount of brain shrinkage compared to when the study began.  Those with the least amount of shrinkage?  You guessed it – those with the highest levels of vitamin B12. 

Now, it needs to be mentioned that this latest finding isn’t convincing enough for researchers to make a causal link between brain shrinkage and vitamin B12 deficiency, but from my perspective, their findings are quite compelling.

For one, the study was five years in length, so it’s not like the researchers’ results were based on a segment in time (a legitimate concern/point of contention for many who disagree with the results of certain studies).  Secondly, the researchers controlled for other factors that can contribute to brain shrinkage (like age, sex, education), and their results still held true.  The scientific world – and the researchers themselves – will have a better idea of B12 and its ability to prevent brain shrinkage through further study, particularly one where B12 is supplemented to participants in conditions where brain shrinkage is expedited (Alzheimer’s patients, for instance).  Until then, there’s no harm in taking proactive action and consuming foods high in vitamin B12. 

Vitamin B12 is essential for a lot of roles within the body, such as red blood cell formation and assisting in the body’s ability to convert food into energy (otherwise known as metabolism), but it’s a major factor in proper brain formation.  Depression is a common side effect of those with vitamin B12 deficiency, for instance.  And because vegetables lack vitamin B12 we must get them from proteins.  Organ meats are loaded with vitamin B12, but because they’re loaded with cholesterol, healthier – yet still packed with vitamin B12 – options include:  snapper, salmon, scallops, halibut, cod and shrimp.  Yes, shrimp has lots of cholesterol, but studies suggest that the cholesterol in shrimp boost HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind), while diminishing LDL levels (the “bad” kind).

You can also supplement with Vitamin B complex; they provide the full gamut of B vitamins, but if you’re looking for vitamin B12 specifically, look no further than these quality protein sources.

Related Posts

  1. Fighting Shrinkage: Exercise Keeps Brain from Shrinking, Slows Alzheimer’s
  2. Chronic Back Pain Linked to “Pain Processing” Area in The Brain
  3. Folic Acid, Vitamin B-12 Play An Essential Role In Brain Function, Study Concludes
  4. Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Expecting Mothers Linked to Heart Defects In Newborns, Study Says
  5. Vitamin C May Reduce Risks of Stroke
  


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