Holistic doctors have known for years that low blood levels of B12 are linked to poorer brain function (cognition). They also know that a blood test for B12 is a notoriously poor detector of the problem. Finally, they also know — from years of clinical experience — that using a B12 supplement or B12 shots to help an older person with cognitive problems is just commonsense and effective medicine. Of course, that commonsense is mocked as nonsense by their conventional colleagues, who insist on choosing therapies based on the test, not the patient. Well, a new study again shows the holistic docs are right. Low levels of B12 are bad for the brain — and they're not detected by a B12 blood test!
The study was conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and published in the journal Neurology. It involved 121 people aged 65 and older. At the beginning of the study, the researchers measured five biochemical markers of B12 levels (1 of which was a blood test), and also tested the study participants for memory and other cognitive skills.
Four years later, the people with the highest level of four out of five of the B12 markers also had the best scores on their cognitive tests. And MRI brain scans showed the brains of those with high B12 levels were bigger than the folks with low B12. (Not surprisingly, brain shrinkage is linked to cognitive decline.)
And here's a really interesting finding. Blood levels of B12 were the only B12 biomarker not linked to either cognitive decline or smaller brains. Only multiple and super-sophisticated B12 tests revealed the B12 deficiency — tests you'd never get from one of the conventional doctors who are eager to assure you that your B12 levels are "normal," and that they have little or nothing to do with any memory or other cognitive problems you're having. (Maybe those docs have shrunken brains from a B12 deficiency?)
As a footnote, a good multivitamin powder contains 500 micrograms (mcg) of B12, which is more than enough to prevent (and even reserve) the low levels of B12 that are common in aging (because of a decline in the "intrinsic factor," a biochemical that helps the body absorb B12). The level in the vitamin powder is almost 200 times greater than the government's RDA (Ridiculous Daily Allowance) of 2.4 mcg. Is it possible to overdose on all that "extra" B12? No — unless you fill a bathtub with the nutrient, slip in the bathtub, and drown in it, extra B12 can't hurt you.
"Low Vitamin B12 Levels May Lead To Brain Shrinkage, Cognitive Problems," Neurology. 2011 Sep 27;77(13):1276-82.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.