Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin which plays a crucial role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. This vitamin is so important that its deficiency may increase the chance of mental disorders in young and older adults. Now, scientists at the Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have revealed that low levels of vitamin B12 in the brains are associated with autism in younger people and schizophrenia in elderly.
According to the new findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the human brain uses vitamin B12 in a “tightly regulated manner” to help in neurological development during life. It helps in the growth of brain during fetal development and early childhood and in refining of neural networks in adolescence, middle and old age.
Lower vitamin B12 levels can have negative effects on the developing brain of younger people. “At some point, an extreme decrease in metabolism…is not compatible with cell survival,” said Richard Deth, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at NSU’s College of Pharmacy.
The levels of B12 in blood and the brain are not always the same. The brain level of the vitamin reduces more over the years compared to blood level. Thus, poor absorption of vitamin B12 by brain from the blood could explain the various types of neurological diseases such as dementia, autism, and schizophrenia, according to the scientists.
The study also found healthy elderly people in the age range of 61-80 have about three times lower levels of total brain B12 than younger age groups, which is a result of normal aging. This normal decrease may help adjust brain metabolism to sustain its function across the lifespan.
A previous study by scientists at the Rush University Medical Center in 2012 had found that elderly people with low vitamin B12 level have higher chance of suffering from brain shrinkage and cognitive decline.
Vegetarians more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient
Vitamin B12 is found in animal protein. Thus, vegetarians and vegans should be cautious as they face a high chance of developing its deficiency. Coffee is another risk factor. Four or more cups of coffee a day can decrease vitamin B by as much as 15 percent, say experts. Vitamin B12 is important for other functions such as myelin sheath health, blood formation, bone marrow health, and DNA synthesis/regulation.
Seafood, meat, poultry, dairy products and egg are common sources of Vitamin B12. A research conducted in 2012 had also revealed that vitamin B12 is important for a healthy brain with progression of age. It said mental fogginess and memory-related problems are the main indicators of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin D and mental health
Mental disorders are also related to deficiency of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficient individuals have two times higher chance of being diagnosed with schizophrenia compared to people with sufficient levels of the vitamin, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2014.
Vitamin D helps in absorption of calcium and is required for bone and muscle health. Exposure to sunlight helps in production of Vitamin D by the skin.
Living with any mental disorder is saddening. Thus, it is important to understand the symptoms pointing to any such issue so that you don’t regret later. If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental disorder, you may seek help of Sovereign Mental Health Services. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529. We offer the best treatment for mental conditions, dual diagnosis and various addictions.