Find Out Why Vitamin B12 Is Vital For Older Adults

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Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for our body, especially for senior citizens and older adults. Here is an expert guide  from Edwina Raj, senior dietician at Aster CMI Hospital on why Vitamin B12 is vital for older adults. 

When was the last time you checked your B12 levels? Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is a critical nutrient that helps to make your red blood cells and DNA- a genetic material, enhances nerve function and heart health and prevents neuropsychiatric disorder and many more. About 47 per cent of Indian adults suffer from this deficiency. However, elderly people, in particular, are at greater risk. This is mostly because of several common problems associated with older adults like improper absorption of nutrients, poor quality of food intake, lack of insight, long-term use of medicines for gastritis or reflux, chronic alcohol intake, strict dieting, veganism and cultural beliefs.

Normal functioning of your digestive system is necessary for food-bound vitamin B12 absorption which is commonly impaired in individuals over 60 years of age. Vitamin B12 and folate are important for homocysteine metabolism. Homocysteine is a sulfur amino acid whose metabolism stands at the intersection of two pathways: remethylation to methionine, which requires folate and vitamin B12 and transsulfuration to cystathionine, which requires pyridoxal-5′-phosphate. Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood may carry a risk factor for heart disease and depression in the elderly.

Vital symptoms that are often neglected

The symptoms of B12 deficiency can be mild to severe as you age and associated with tingling or prickly feelings in legs or hands, difficulty in walking, forgetfulness, weakness, high homocysteine levels in blood and anaemia/low blood haemoglobin levels. This gets unnoticed due to other illnesses. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Indians is 1mcgday. Elderly people may need larger amounts of vitamin B12 than younger people because the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from diet declines with age. Find out from your health care professional or nutritionist today and it is necessary to check B12 annually to stay nutritionally fit.

Dietary Sources of Vitamin B12

Non-veg source of Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products. Healthy dietary sources include shellfish, fish, shellfish, crab, egg yolk, smaller amounts in milk or dairy.

The vegetarian or vegan source of Vitamin B12: It is notoriously hard to source natural B12 for vegans. A recent analysis revealed that some plant-sourced foods, such as certain fermented foods, edible algae, kefir and mushrooms, contain substantial amounts of bioactive vitamin B12.

The consequences of Vitamin B12 deficiency

In a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, it has been found that among 259 patients aged 60 years and above who had neuropsychiatric manifestations, 16 per cent had Vitamin B12 deficiency. The study also revealed that Vitamin B12 deficiency was more prevalent in elderly males and was associated with increased severity of behavioural disturbances. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked with behavioural disturbances, memory loss and sensorimotor or movement disorders along with cognitive decline. It has been observed that older adults with neurodegenerative dementias are more likely to get affected due to Vitamin B12 deficiency. Interestingly, senior citizens with dyslipidemia in addition to B12 deficiency are prone to suffer from increased cognitive decline. Early detection and management of Vitamin B12 deficiency can thus lessen the cognitive burden in elderly patients.

In case you love dining out, here is an expert guide from Edwina Raj, senior dietician at Aster CMI Hospital about things to be kept in mind before you order your meal. 

About Author

Edwina Raj

Edwina Raj is an expert in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics with an experience of 11years. A gold medalist and rank holder from the University of Mysore, she is also a passionate author and blog writer in the field of nutrition.