"B" Smart for Brain Health
Older adults with symptoms of depression may benefit from a folic acid and vitamin B12 supplement
From misplaced car keys to the forgotten name of a new acquaintance, "senior moments" affect all of us from time to time. Fortunately, there may be something we can do to sharpen our brains as we age. Even better, this small action--making sure we get enough of certain B vitamins--may be particularly helpful for those affected by depression, a condition that can negatively affect brain performance.
Boosting the brain
To study how folic acid and vitamin B12 affect brain function, researchers randomly selected 909 older adults with symptoms of depression to receive a supplement providing 400 mcg of folic acid and 100 mcg of vitamin B12 or a placebo (no vitamins) pill. Participants completed phone questionnaires and tests to measure their thinking (cognitive) function at the beginning of the study and 12 and 24 months later.
Compared with the group not taking folic acid and vitamin B12, certain measures of thinking function significantly improved in those who received supplements:
There were no differences between the groups in other aspects of cognitive function, such as attention and processing speed.
B vitamins and beyond
This study suggests older adults with symptoms of depression may benefit from a folic acid and vitamin B12 supplement, but these vitamins will not work miracles by themselves. In addition to getting your "Bs," there are many things you can do keep your brain sharp as you age.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.