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Many of the B-complex vitamins have a role in brain and nervous system health, so deficiencies can cause neurological problems. Low levels of two of these vitamins—vitamin B12 and folate—can cause a type of anemia. Severe vitamin B12–deficiency can lead to tingling of the hands and feet as well as mood changes, depression, and alterations in cognition. Low folate levels can cause typical symptoms of anemia, including fatigue and headache.
The study investigated the relationship between blood levels of folate and vitamin B12 and cognitive function in 593 Greek people 65 years and older. The researchers also looked at educational level, depression, and social activity as they related to cognitive impairment risk. Here’s what they found:
To gain some perspective on their results, the researchers also analyzed 23 studies including information from almost 18,000 people that investigated the connection between low vitamin B12 and folate levels and the risk of cognitive impairment.
“This large meta-analysis confirms an adverse effect of low serum folate levels on cognitive function among elderly individuals of both genders,” the researchers concluded, also pointing out “the need to further explore the potential protective role of extrinsic factors, such as social environment, in preserving cognition and increasing quality of life among seniors.”
Many of the changes that we’ve come to associate with “normal” aging may not be inevitable. Give these tips a try to keep your brain healthy as you age:
(J Aging Health 2013. doi:10.1177/0898264313482488 jah.sagepub.com)