Known to safeguard the brain against shrinkage and atrophy, vitamin B12 may be more beneficial in the health terrain. According to a latest study, vitamin B12 protects against Alzheimer’s disease. Fish, poultry and other meat products are considered as rich sources of this vitamin.

The seven-year study was triggered on 271 Finnish people aged 65 to 79 years. None of the participants were diagnosed with dementia at the start of the study. In the course of the investigations, 17 people probably developed Alzheimer’s disease. Authors gathered blood samples to test levels of homocysteine, an amino acid supposedly associated with vitamin B12. Also levels of holotranscobalamin, the active portion of the vitamin were scrutinized. It was concluded that high levels of homocysteine in the blood are linked with negative effects on the brain including stroke. But greater levels of vitamin B12 may lower homocysteine.

Babak Hooshmand, MD, MSc, with Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and the study author, shared, “Our findings show the need for further research on the role of vitamin B12 as a marker for identifying people who are at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 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.”

For each micromolar elevation in the concentration of homocysteine, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease seemingly boosted by 16 percent. On the other hand, each picomolar increase in concentration of the active form of vitamin B12 decreased risk by two percent. The results were noted after considering factors such as age, gender, education, smoking status, blood pressure and BMI. Significant quantity of folate did not seem to heighten or decline the threat of Alzheimer’s disease. Additional investigations can be initiated for ascertaining whether vitamin B12 can be used as a supplement to help protect memory.

The study is published in the October 19, 2010, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.