Vitamin B12 Deficiency: What are the consequences?

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Dementia and the ageing brain 

Dementia syndromes include a large number of disorders, from bipolar disorder, memory loss, personality change, Alzheimer's disease and alcoholic dementia to posttraumatic, vascular dementia, such as in stroke, and hypovitaminosis. Early signs of dementia may be subtle and vague, but generally involve memory loss, particularly for recent events. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia amongst older people. The disease affects parts of the brain that affect memory and speech. Over 1% of the population is affected with Alzheimer's disease. While many people think that dementia is a natural consequence of ageing, literature suggests that adequate nutrition, particularly with vitamin B12 and perhaps folate can delay or prevent the onset of dementia. 

Early signs of dementia include:

  • Recent memory loss

  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks

  • Language problems

  • Disorientation of time and place

  • Deteriorated judgement

  • Problems with calculations

  • Misplacing things

  • Mood and behaviour changes

  • Personality changes

  • Loss of initiative

Vitamin B12 deficiency and Dementia 

Vitamin B12 helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and blood cells. Some of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as poor memory, confusion, cognitive impairment, and depression are also associated with psychiatric conditions such as dementia Several studies have have linked the occurrence of vitamin B12 deficiency with an increased incidence of, or early onset of dementia. As yet no study has shown that administration of high doses of vitamin B12 can cure dementia or enhance the memory in dementia disease sufferers once they have the disease, however it has been shown to reduce the rate of memory loss and the rate of acquisition of the symptoms of dementia. High doses of vitamin B12 have been shown to reduce the rate of shrinkage of the brain in those over 60. This shrinkage is reported to be part of the process in the development of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. 

Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Patients with Dementia

By the time a patient develops early signs of dementia, there has been significant damage to the neurones and vitamin B12 is severely depleted in the liver, but more importantly in the brain and CSF. At this stage standard supplements containing vitamin B12 are not effective in increasing the serum and CSF levels of vitamin B12 and so constant high dose administration of vitamin B12 is required. Studies have shown that dementia progression can largely be halted by such treatment. A topical form of vitamin B12 has been recently developed that is a specially formulated preparation that is an easy to apply, needle-free delivery system to the skin of the vitamin B12 deficient patient. This pain-free form of delivery greatly increases the patient comfort experienced during the administration of the medication and allows for self-medication without the need for medical staff or any special training. It has recently become apparent that oral supplementation with vitamin B12 does not provide enough vitamin B12 to overcome vitamin B12 deficiency due to the limited uptake capacity of the intestine for vitamin B12, hence there is a requirement for higher initial doses of vitamin B12 to be supplied either by injection or via the topical vitamin B12 formulation.  In addition, the topical formulation of vitamin B12 is particularly suited to patients who may have gastro-intestinal problems, or who have had bariatric surgery, which prevents absorption of vitamin B12 Such patients include those with with gastric ulcers, atrophic gastritis, Crohnís Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, or who are on Metformin medication, which has been shown can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. 

Further Information on Dementia

Check out the following sites for further information on dementia:

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Dementia_diagnosis_and_early_signs?OpenDocument

http://www.healthinsite.gov.au/topics/Alzheimer_s_Disease

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11232356

http://www.aging-parents-and-elder-care.com/Pages/Vitamin_B12_Deficiency.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11569602

Scientific publications on vitamin B12 and Dementia

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