The Bad News about Dementia. It is likely that 1 in 8 Americans over the age of 65 and half the people over 85 have some form of dementia. It is the sixth leading cause of death and is estimated to have cost the United States healthcare system roughly $200 billion dollars in 2012.

The Good News about Dementia. Correcting one of the most common nutrient deficiencies – Low Vitamin B12 – could significantly reduce the risk of developing cognitive decline.

Signs and symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:

  • Low Energy and Weakness
  • Confusion or “fuzziness”
  • Persistent sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Hearing and vision loss
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weak Immune function
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet

What is vitamin B12? Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. There are several cobalamins at work in our body; cyanocobalamin, methocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin. They have key roles in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. The cobalamins support adrenal function and are necessary for key metabolic processes. They are vitally important to DNA synthesis and maintaining healthy nerve cells.

Is this important? According to a report in the Harvard Health Newsletter, vitamin B12 deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the developing world and the US.  Other studies estimate that nearly 50% of all older individuals are deficient in B12.

Sources of Vitamin B12. We obtain vitamin B12 only from animal foods in our diet. Deficiencies tend to develop among strict vegetarians, especially vegan children, who eat no animal products. The elderly, as well as those who are pregnant or who suffer hemorrhage or intestinal disorders, are at risk.

How Much B12 Dow We Need? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average daily U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is:

  • people age 14 and older, 2.4 mcg;
  • for adult and adolescent pregnant females, 2.6 mcg and for adult and adolescent lactating females, 2.8mcg.
  • People over 50 years of age should consume vitamin B12-fortified foods, or take a vitamin B12 supplement.

Keep in mind that the US RDA figures reflect the minimum amounts needed to sustain life. In the case of this vitamin, more is usually better.

The Best Sources of Vitamin B12. Animal-derived foods are the best food sources of vitamin B12, including dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, and shellfish.

Can a Person Have Too Much B12? Vitamin B12 is considered safe and non-toxic. It is unlikely that anyone could consume too much. Also, being soluble in water, any excesses are promptly eliminated via urine, sweat, and bowel movements.

What can impede Vitamin B12 absorption or depletion?

  • Excessive alcohol use.
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Stomach acid drugs
  • Metformin
  • Nicotine
  • Potassium and Vitamin C supplements can reduce absorption of vitamin B12

How Can a Person Increase B12 Intake if Meat is Out of the Question? B12 needs other factors (called intrinsic factors) to be efficiently absorbed from the gut. Those intrinsic factors are also present in meat. Taking a B12 supplement by mouth – tablet or capsule – is, therefore, inefficient.

  • The more common route of administration is by injection. This requires a doctor’s prescription. Common amounts are 1,000 micrograms to 5,000 micrograms per week.
  • B12 as a sublingual tablet (under tongue) is absorbed by the blood vessels in the mouth.

There are numerous articles and stories about B12 and they are mostly truthful. Some encourage one form of the vitamin over another, yet nothing is 100% conclusive. As a general principle, most of us have a B12 deficiency to a greater or lesser degree – mostly associated with our diets. In the end, modest supplementation will be helpful, especially if the above symptoms are a problem for you.

For an excellent presentation about Alzheimer’s and dementia, take a look at an in depth presentation  published at