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Vitamin B12 Status Predicts Brain Atrophy in Elderly

Findings suggest that a low level is an important modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline

TUESDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- In older community-dwelling adults, plasma vitamin B12 status may be an early marker of brain atrophy, according to a study published in the Sept. 9 issue of Neurology.

Anna Vogiatzoglou, of the University of Oxford in Oxford, U.K., and colleagues collected blood samples from 107 volunteers aged 61 to 87 who were free of cognitive impairment at enrollment and followed them for five years.

After adjusting for age, sex, creatinine, education, initial brain volume, cognitive test scores, systolic blood pressure and other factors, the researchers found that low levels of vitamin B12 and holotranscobalamin were significantly associated with decreased brain volume. When they compared subjects in the lowest tertiles of B12 or holotranscobalamin levels with subjects in the highest tertiles, they found that the odds ratios for an increased rate of brain volume loss were 6.17 and 5.99, respectively. They also found that high levels of methylmalonic acid or total homocysteine, or low levels of folate were not associated with brain volume loss.

"These findings suggest that plasma vitamin B12 status may be an early marker of brain atrophy and thus a potentially important modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline in the elderly," the authors conclude. "Larger studies in different population settings using sensitive vitamin B12 status markers are needed to support these conclusions. Moreover, intervention studies will help to define whether optimization of vitamin B12 status contributes to the maintenance of cognitive performance with successful aging."

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