Sun, May 19, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Vitamin B12 crucial to avoid cognitive impairment: doctor

By Tsai Chang-sheng and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Older people who follow a vegetarian diet or have a compromised stomach are more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency, which could lead to mood disorders, or motor or cognitive impairment, a Hsinchu-based doctor said.

Animal protein is the main source of vitamin B12, which is crucial for neurological functioning, blood generation and DNA synthesis, said Lin Ju-chen (林洳甄) of the National Taiwan University Hospital’s Hsinchu branch.

The vitamin bonds with protein and is absorbed after being broken down by gastric acid, making B12 deficiency a concern for those with a compromised stomach, she said.

As seniors are more likely to have chronic stomach ailments, use antacids or have undergone a partial stomach removal, they have a higher risk of being B12 deficient, she added.

Insufficient B12 intake can have serious consequences for the mind and body, Lin said.

A woman surnamed Lee (李), 65, was treated at the hospital after her family reported that she was paranoid, afraid of open and crowded places, had angry outbursts and started hoarding strange objects that she found in the street, Lin said.

A man surnamed Chang (張), 80, told doctors that he had no sensation in his feet, despite having cellulitis, and had trouble keeping his balance, although his muscle mass and strength was normal for his age, she said.

Doctors found that Lee and Chang lacked sufficient vitamin B12, Lin said, adding that Lee had been a vegetarian for 30 years and Chang had avoided eating meat due to a dental problem.

Lee and Chang recovered after taking a B12 supplement, but recovering from the mental effects of B12 deprivation can be a long, difficult process, Lin said.

Caretakers should watch for symptoms such as numbness in the limbs, cognitive deficiencies, impaired balance, mood swings, anxiety, reduced impulse control or delusions, she said.

Most healthy adults take in enough B12 through a normal diet of eggs, dairy, meat and seafood, but an imbalanced diet, excessive alcohol consumption or routine use of antacids could cause problems, she added.

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