Memory Loss Could Mean Vitamin B12 Deficiency

If you find yourself or your dear ones often forgetting things, don't panic. While in most circumstances, memory loss is associated with stress, dementia etc., there could also be other reasons for forgetfulness and memory loss.

Singer Suzie Mac, who's just 25 years old found that her memory had become so poor that she could hardly remember the words to her own songs and the lowest point was when she  forgot her parents' names.

Excerpts of her story from the Daily Mail:

Her neurologists say it is vitamin B12 deficiency, a problem that experts believe thousands may have.

Vitamin B12 — found in red meat, fish, dairy products and fortified cereals — is important for brain and nervous system function, helps the body produce red blood cells, converts food into energy, and plays a role in regulating mood.

Most people absorb it naturally without problem, but deficiency is not uncommon — particularly among older people.

‘Studies have shown at least 10 per cent of people aged 65 and over are deficient,’ explains David Smith, a professor emeritus of pharmacology at Oxford University and an expert on the condition.

‘As we get older, we don’t produce as much of the stomach acid and enzymes which break the B12 off the proteins in food, so we don’t absorb it as well.’

At least 20 per cent or more of vegans and vegetarians are deficient, he says.

Conditions such as Crohn's disease, pernicious anaemia, patients who are on long-term acid reflux medication, limit the body’s ability to extract B12 from food.

‘The traditional cut-off values for deficiency are too low and deficiency is more common than generally thought,’ explains Professor Smith. ‘We have evidence that people suffer harm from levels up to 300pmol/L, yet they receive lab reports saying their levels are normal. That’s why it’s important to ask for your exact level if you’ve been tested.’ Diagnosis typically involves a blood test to check levels of B12.

The signs of deficiency — which typically include tiredness, muscle weakness, disturbed vision and numbness or tingling — are insidious and slow to develop, he says, so ‘people often think they are just getting old’.

Dr Rangan Chatterjee, a GP and presenter of the BBC series Doctor In The House, says that there is no harm for patients in trying supplements for four weeks as any excess is expelled through urine. ‘People can also help themselves by eating animal-derived food, particularly liver and liver pate (a good source of vitamin B), milk and fish, especially shell fish.’
So if you are worried about your  failing memory and frequent spells of forgetfulness, it could be your dwindling B12 levels. More often than not, this condition is misdiagnosed for depression and anti-depressant pills are prescribed which might not at all help the patient and might even worsen the condition. So you need to  consult a reputed neurologist who can diagnose your condition accurately and give appropriate treatment.

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  1. Sucharita5:28 PM

    B12 deficiency can be treated by either oral or intramuscular injections of the vitamin.

  2. One way to prevent low levels of vitamin B12 is to eat a diet rich in B12. This includes liver, beef, clams, several kinds of fish, fortified cereals and other sources as well.


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