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Folate And Vitamin B12 Concerns For Senior Health

Agricultural Research Service funded researchers to look into links between dietary intakes of two B vitamins and mental agility among seniors.

Agricultural Research Service is the United States Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency. The vitamins studied were:

– Folate
– Vitamin B12

The development of healthy nerves and blood cells are related to the important nutrients of Folate and B12.

This study revealed that seniors aged 60 and older with low vitamin B12 blood levels presented an interesting association. When older people take stomach-acid blockers there is a gradual lessening of B12 absorption in the body.

People with high folate and low B12 were at a disadvantage when compared to people with normal folate and low B12 levels. People with high folate and low B12 were found more likely to have symptoms of anemia and cognitive impairment. The researchers used a single cognitive function test to assess aptitudes that included:

– Response to speed
– Sustained attention
– Visual-spatial skills
– Associative learning and memory

Researchers’ recommendations were:

– Future studies to look into the implications of having too much folic acid due to the fortification process of enriched cereal grain products
– And too little vitamin B12 due to poor absorption

Researchers also reported that elderly Hispanics of Caribbean origin were significantly more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient than were non-Hispanic whites. These conclusions were based on a study of information collected in volunteers’ homes. The symptoms of B12 deficiency range from:

– Decreased memory and balance disturbances
– To nerve damage and cognitive decline

Researchers collected information from 347 Puerto Ricans, 102 Dominicans and 154 non-Hispanic whites aged 60 to 93 years who all lived in Massachusetts for this study and found that elderly Hispanics had lower levels of Vitamin B12.

One reason cited for the lower levels of B12 were:

– The B12 in natural sources such as meat, eggs and dairy products is tightly bound to the proteins contained in those foods

If the consumer does not have enough stomach acid to break those bonds, he or she may not absorb sufficient amounts of B12. Aging and taking acid-blockers will also contribute to a gradual lessening of B12 absorption.

Supplements and fortified cereals are sources of vitamin B12 that are not bound to protein and appear to be protective. Consequently for those who take supplements with B12 or eat cereal more than four times per week, they are less likely to have low levels of B12.

Deficiencies in Vitamin B12 levels can cause decreased memory, balance disturbances, nerve damage and cognitive decline in any group of senior people.

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