Vitamin B12 Supplements May Not Help Some Seniors

Vitamin B12 Supplements May Not Help Some Seniors

Vitamin B12 Supplements May Not Help Some Seniors

They seem to work only when deficiency of the nutrient is severe, study finds

SOURCE: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, news release, July 1, 2015

THURSDAY, July 16, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin B12 supplements are known to benefit seniors with severe B12 deficiency, but they may not help those who are just moderately deficient, a new study suggests.

"Many people may be taking vitamin B12 supplements on a regular basis, and it has been thought they would enhance function in older people," said study author Dr. Alan Dangour, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "Our study found no evidence of benefit for nervous system or cognitive function from 12 months of supplementation among older people with moderate vitamin B12 deficiency."

B12 is found in fish, meat, chicken and dairy products.

"We advise older people concerned about their health and [mental] function to eat a diverse and healthy diet, keep [mentally] active and when possible take regular physical activity," Dangour said in a school news release.

The study was published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In elderly people with severe B12 deficiency, supplementation reduces their risk for related muscle weakness, fatigue, depression, memory and movement impairment, and general thinking difficulties, the researchers say.

The study team focused on more than 200 people, all over 75 years old, with moderate B12 deficiency. For a year, all received either a B12 supplement or a dummy pill.

Although the researchers could identify no mental or neurological improvements attributable to B12 supplementation, they acknowledged the dose of B12 might have been too low to affect function. They said it's also possible the study period was too short to detect any impact.

More information

For more about vitamin B12, see the U.S. National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

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