People could develop Alzheimer’s disease in later life if they do not have sufficient levels of vitamin B12, according to new research.
Researchers found that the vitamin plays an important role in fighting off Alzheimer’s by reducing levels of homocysteine.
Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood that is linked to the disease.
The study showed that people have varying levels of vitamin B12 in their blood, and that elderly people often have lower levels.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 include fish, meat and milk, meaning people on non-diary diets, and vegetarians, fall short of the sufficient amount.
For this reason, many people take vitamin B12 supplements.
The seven year study looked at blood samples taken from 271 Finnish people aged 65 to 79 who did not have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia at the outset.
Blood samples were tested for levels of homocysteine, B12, and the active portion of the vitamin, called holotranscobalamin.
Each tiny step-increase in homocysteine concentration raised the risk of Alzheimer’s by 16%.
But the risk was reduced by 2% every time levels of the active form of vitamin B12 went up.
Study author Dr Babak Hooshmand, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, whose findings are reported in the journal Neurology, said: “Low levels of vitamin B12 are surprisingly common in the elderly.
“However, the few studies that have investigated the usefulness of vitamin B12 supplements to reduce the risk of memory loss have had mixed results.”