Vitamin Linked to Dementia, Schizophrenia and Autism
- Discover why blood tests may not always tell you what’s going on in your brain
- New research finds this common nutrient to be vital for brain health throughout the course of life. Find out more…
- Plus, the best ways to boost your levels!
Dear Living Well Daily,
Recently, new research has found that the brains of folks with dementia, schizophrenia and autism have a common link.
And it’s not a rare genetic marker or complex brain structure discovered by a fancy scan (well, not in the research we are talking about here, anyway)…
No, this connection is pretty straightforward — it’s a vitamin B-12 deficiency. And it was discovered in a groundbreaking new study that revealed some astonishing truths about the way B-12 works in our bodies, particularly our brains.
You see, this study found that blood levels of B-12 don’t always match brain levels of B-12. This, coupled with the fact that brain levels of B-12 decline with age, could be the cause of these neurological disorders.
The first-of-its-kind study done at Nova Southeastern University was published in the journal PLOS ONE and it compares the levels of vitamin B-12 in human brains across a life span.
The findings suggest that poor uptake of vitamin B-12 from the blood to the brain could be related to certain neurological diseases like dementia, schizophrenia and autism.
The study, led by professor of pharmacology Richard Deth, Ph.D., examined the brains of over 60 deceased people with ages ranging from fetus to 80 years. Of these 60, nine had autism and 12 had schizophrenia.
The researchers found that vitamin B-12 levels were 10 times lower in the brains of the oldest subjects compared with those of the youngest. This reflects the natural and gradual decline that occurs with aging, which can also play a role in the onset of dementia.
Next, they found that the B-12 levels in the brains of both adults with schizophrenia and children with autism were about one-third of those found in people of the same age who did not have these neurological conditions. The schizophrenics were ages 36–49, yet their B-12 levels reflected those of a 72-year-old brain. The autistic children were all under the age of 10, but their B-12 levels reflected those of someone in their fifties.
According to Deth, low levels of B-12 may be detrimental because it can hinder the brain’s ability to create significant neural connections. This means, without a healthy level of B-12, your brain activity may malfunction.
Live Well With B-12
While this study doesn’t prove that B-12 deficiency is a direct cause of autism, schizophrenia or dementia, it certainly opens the door for more research on this link. These findings also support scientists who believe the human brain uses vitamin B-12 to control gene expression and spur neurological development throughout the course of human life — from fetus through old age.
In addition, both autism and schizophrenia are associated with oxidative stress, which is also linked to aging. The researchers think oxidative stress could play a role in the decreased B-12 levels in the brain.
As of now, there isn’t a way to test your brain levels of B-12. That’s why it’s important to regularly eat foods with high levels of B-12. These include red meats, cheeses and eggs.
If you’re unsure if your diet is supplying you with the right amount of B-12, supplementation is another way to ensure your intake.
Just be sure to purchase supplements that contain the methylcobalamin form of B-12. It’s the most active in the body and is the same type of B-12 measured in the study. Plus, it’s best to get the sublingual tablets verses capsules. This means the B-12 is absorbed directly in the mouth and doesn’t depend on the stomach for digestion.