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Vitamin B12 May Prevent Brain Shrinkage

Recent studies show that vitamin B12 is important in nutrition because it can help the body by preventing brain shrinkage during aging.1 Vitamin B12 is a nutrient found mainly in meats, dairy, fish, and shellfish. It contains an element called cobalt, so it is often called cobalamin2. The cobalt atom is the center of the molecule and is the only carbon based vitamin molecule containing a metal. You can tell it is a fairly complex molecule by its chemical designation, C63H90CoN14O14P with lots of carbons, hydrogens and Nitrogens and Oxygens. It is water soluble.

B12 is generally thought of as a part of the B complex of vitamins. In conjunction with them and on its own, it carries out many important functions within the body. It is thought to be a key nutrient in new growth. B12 is vital for maintaining the health of nervous system (including preventing brain shrinkage). It has been found to be necessary for digestion and absorption. It plays a vital roll in protein synthesis and carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Without B12 red blood cells could not form in the bone marrow.3

Bound to the protein in many foods, B12 sources are relatively easily accessible. It is hydrochloric acid in the stomach that separates the B12 from protein. B12 then combines with intrinsic factor (in the presence of calcium supplied by the pancreas) and then is absorbed into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream it is distributed throughout the body.4 Excess amounts are stored in the liver for later use. Some people, especially those suffering from pernicious anemia or who are strict vegetarians can suffer from a deficiency of B12. This can also affect people who suffer digestive problems including Crohns disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

Deficiency in vitamin B12 manifests itself in symptoms mainly associated with the nervous system, including shaking, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, vision problems and even dementia. Megaloblastic anemia, where red blood cells are larger than normal, may also be caused by the deficiency. Long term, lack of vitamin B12 in conjunction with folic acid can be a problem in heart disease. It is known that folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis and that B12 keeps folic acid in a form useable by the body. Damaged DNA can encourage cancer so B12 very likely plays a part in reducing the chances of a person having cancer.5

It currently appears that B12 is not toxic in high doses in healthy people. No negative side-effects have been found regarding high intake. It seems that high doses taken orally do not have a huge absorption rate - but there is certainly enough absorption to make it an effective therapy for vitamin B12 deficiency. Besides normal absorption, it is thought that about 1% is absorbed passively. It is generally agreed that oral supplementation is as effective as injections.

Folic acid (found in spinach, beans, and acorn squash) and vitamin B12 work together in preventing nerve damage. Some experiments have shown that large doses of folic acid can actually eliminate some symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, even while allowing nerve cell damage to continue.

Disclaimer: This article is meant to be informative and help the reader to understand the basics of vitamin B12. Before undertaking a course of vitamin intake the reader should consult a nutritionist or a doctor.


  1. Referencing Yahoo News article previously found at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080908/hl_nm/brain_vitamin_dc called Vitamin B12 and Brain Shrinkage
  2. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12
  3. Global Herbal Supplies
  4. Mayo Clinic Website
  5. Linus Pauling Institute


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