December 8th, 2011 at 1:01 pm
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B12, Alzheimer’s, and the symptoms of aging

by Carol Bursack

Decades ago, my grandmother received monthly vitamin B12 shots from the home health nurse. It was common knowledge, even then, that as people age they don’t absorb vitamin B12 well. Low B12 levels can cause pernicious anemia, which was my grandmother’s problem. However, low B12 levels can cause many other illnesses, as well.

A recent article by Jane Brody in the New York Times highlights the fact that B12 can cause dementia symptoms. Brody’s article uses the example of an elderly woman who was prescribed drugs given to people with Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, the doctor had the good sense to check for low B12 levels, as well, and prescribed the vitamin.

The article is clear about the results:

“A workup at a memory clinic resulted in a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s disease…was prescribed Aricept, which…seemed to make matters worse. But the clinic also tested…blood level of vitamin B12. It was well below normal, and her doctor thought that could be contributing to her symptoms. Weekly B12 injections were begun. ‘Soon afterward, she became less agitated, less confused and her memory was much better.’”

The woman’s daughter said that after the correct treatment was found she felt like she “had her mother back.”

B12 and symptoms of old age

Years ago, I reviewed a book titled Could It Be B12? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses, by Sally M. Pacholok RN and Jeffrey J. Stuart DO. The authors felt many people in nursing homes have problems that could have been prevented if they had been given B12 intervention early enough. Symptoms described in the book include those that mimic Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and more. The writers’ frustration with the lack of further research into this issue was such that getting the word out on B12 has become a life’s passion.

Since that time, I’ve reported on many studies about the importance of B12, most suggesting that vitamin B12 supplementation could prevent, or at least improve, many illnesses associated with aging. Studies show that elders may need more B12 than younger people. According to the New York Time’s article:

“Stomach acid levels decline with age. As many as 30 percent of older people may lack sufficient stomach acid to absorb adequate amounts of B12 from natural sources. Therefore, regular consumption of fortified foods or supplementation with 25 to 100 micrograms of B12 daily is recommended for people over 50.”

There are now methods of delivering B12 to the system that bypass the digestive tract, including sublingual (under the tongue) dosage, as well as injections. It certainly seems as though B12 levels should be considered in making an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Also, perhaps, more studies should be done on the B12 levels needed by the aging body. This will be an interesting thread to follow in the search for a way to prevent and/or cure Alzheimer’s.

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