Vitamin B12 may protect older people against brain shrinkage, according to a study published in the Sept. 9 issue of Neurology.
A study of 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87 found that people who had higher B12 levels were six times less likely to experience a loss in brain volume compared to those who had lower levels of the vitamin in their blood. None of the people in the study had a B12 deficiency.
Brain shrinkage typically occurs after the age of 60 and has been linked to memory loss.
For the research, participants underwent brain scans, memory testing and physical exams. Researchers also collected blood samples to check vitamin B12 levels. Brain scans and memory tests were performed five years after the initial testing.
"Many factors that affect brain health are thought to be out of our control, but this study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to consume more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory," said study author Anna Vogiatzoglou, of the University of Oxford, in a news release.
Vogiatzoglou said the study did not look at whether taking vitamin B12 supplements would have the same effect on memory.