Vitamin B12 supplements offer little benefit for older people

Vitamin B12  supplements offer no benefits for neurological or cognitive function in older people with a moderate vitamin B12 deficiency, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Vitamin B12 supplements do not boost the nervous system and brain function of older people who have a moderate vitamin B12 deficiency, a study has found.

Researchers at the London School of Tropical Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, carried out a trial involving 201 people aged 75 and over who took a daily supplement or a placebo for a year.

Clinical tests – including muscle strength, memory and mobility – carried out on all participants at the end of the year found no difference in the improvement between the two groups.

Vitamin B12 is found in foods such as fish, meat, poultry and dairy products. Around one sixth of people aged 75 and over lack the vitamin which, when severe, can lead to memory problems, muscle weakness and depression.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reader in food and nutrition for global health, Alan Dangour, said: 'This is the first trial of the effect of vitamin B12 supplementation on neurological and cognitive function in older people with moderate B12 deficiency.

'Many people have been taking vitamin B12 supplements on a regular basis  and it has been thought they would enhance function in older people. Our study found no evidence of benefit for nervous system or cognitive function from 12 months supplementation.'

Dr Dangour added: 'We advise older people concerned about their health and cognitive function to eat a diverse and healthy diet, keep cognitively active and, when possible take regular physical activity.'

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