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D.iet & H.ealth : N.utrition Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Vitamin B12 deficiency may be mistaken for mental decline in elderly patients
By Kathy Jones
Oct 19, 2006, 23:22

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Recent research suggests that people who are believed to suffer from mental decline, sleeplessness or other nervous system disorders may simply have vitamin B12 deficiency.
The vitamin is found mostly in animal products so vegetarians are at a risk for developing deficiency disorders.

Consumers who do not eat meat products must ensure that their diet supplements enough B12 since deficiency of the vitamin may often be mistaken for other conditions. This is especially true in elderly people when signs of nervousness may be mistakenly diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease.

Vitamin B12 deficiency arises mainly due to the body's inability to absorb it. This in turn causes a near-lethal anemia, sleeping disorders or mental decline. The fact that deficiency of the vitamin is common in the elderly was borne out when a large study found that 61 percent of elderly patients suffering from signs of mental decline were able to post a complete recovery when given B12 supplements.

Methylcobalamin happens to be the most active form of B12. The body is also able to easily absorb this form rather than other widely available forms like cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.

Vitamin B12 deficiency may not be apparent for many years. That is why it is vital to ensure that the diet contains some form of the vitamin. In the elderly, deficiency results in a swollen tongue and diarrhea, besides depression, numbness, pins and needles sensations as well as a burning feeling.

In the above study researchers said that the 39 percent of elderly participants who did not recover after B12 supplementation were suffering from brain damage as a result of long-term undiagnosed B12 deficiency.

Doctors recommend that people suffering from sleep-wake disorder be given 1.5 to 3 mg daily of methylcobalamin. This results in improved quality of sleep and a better mood.

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