Dr. Randy Martin: Did you know that as we age our brain actually shrinks? This can lead to a host of problems, especially with our memory and cognition. But what if there was a pill that could help? I met with Dr. Robert Gilbert, a neurologist at Piedmont Hospital, to learn more about the aging brain and a supplement that may protect brain function.
The Aging Brain
As we age, our brain can atrophy or shrink, explains Robert Gilbert, M.D., a neurologist at Piedmont Hospital. As the brain decreases in size, our memory and cognition can be affected.
“In general, the more volume in the brain you lose, the more impairment [you experience] with your memory, reasoning, gait and balance,” he says.
In a 2011 study published in the journal Neurology, researchers compared levels of vitamin B12 in participants’ systems to their brain sizes and cognitive functions.
“Researchers did MRI testing for memory and found that the markers for low B12 were highly connected with patients who did worse in cognitive scale testing,” Dr. Gilbert says. “There seems to be a link between the markers for low B12…and an increase in neurological deficits.”
B12: A Solution for Protecting Brain Function?
“B12 is found predominantly in animal sources, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs and even liver,” he says. “It is also found in fortified cereals.”
While the study looks promising, Dr. Gilbert says it is still too early for physicians to recommend that all patients take B12 supplements.
“I think patients, particularly as they age, should make sure their diet [includes B12],” he says. “I certainly don’t think there is any problem with taking a B12 supplement.”
Dr. Randy Martin: As Dr. Gilbert mentions, it is important to get vitamin B12 from your diet, although supplements can help you get enough of this nutrient as well. As always, consult with your physician before taking any vitamins or supplements.