Vitamin B12 supports normal brain development. A lower than normal level of vitamin B12 in the brain could adversely affect neurodevelopment in younger years as well as learning and memory later in life.
A new study published last week in PLOS One found that vitamin B12 levels in the brain are much lower in the elderly population as well as significantly lower in individuals with autism or schizophrenia. In this study, autistic children were found to have brain vitamin B12 levels three times lower then what is commonly seen in adults in their fifties.
The research team compared tissue samples from healthy deceased donors to tissue from donors who had autism or schizophrenia. Their results demonstrated significant differences in brain B12 levels with aging, autism, and schizophrenia. These differences were not seen in serum B12 levels. This large deficit of brain B12 in individuals with autism and schizophrenia may provide insight to why these patients experience neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
This study also found that healthy elderly individuals’ levels of brain B12 were approximately three times lower than younger populations, which is a natural result of aging. Therefore, a lower level of vitamin B12 may affect age-related memory decline.
Autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia are both associated with oxidative stress, which also plays an important role in aging. The authors suggest that oxidative stress may play an underlying role in the decreased brain B12 levels observed in this study. These results suggest there may be a need for supplemental vitamin B12 and antioxidant support to prevent or decrease oxidative stress. This may include using n-acetyl-l-cysteine, glutathione, and/or s-acetyl-glutathione. Assessing other methylation cofactors such as folate is also important, as a folate deficiency has been associated with developmental delay and autism, and is essential in working with these conditions. An organic acid test is also a great tool to consider and is available through several specialty labs. This test can identify nutrient deficiencies, oxidative stress, and detoxification impairment.
By Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN
Source: Yiting Zhang, Nathaniel W. Hodgson, Malav S. Trivedi, Hamid M. Abdolmaleky, Margot Fournier, Michel Cuenod, Kim Quang Do, Richard C. Deth. Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (1): e0146797 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0146797