How to Avoid Vitamin B12 Deficiency Common in Aging

A Quebec study published in 2022 in November, the authors report that vitamin B12 deficiency is more common with age, largely due to a decreased ability to absorb the vitamin. Journal of Nutrition.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible neurological damage.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in foods of animal origin: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy products. However, the bioavailability of the vitamin varies in different foods. Alternative sources include fermented foods, fortified foods, and vitamin supplements.

The elderly are thought to be at risk for low B12 status due to age-related physiological changes, as well as the use of certain medications that can affect B12 digestion (such as metformin for diabetes).

Nancy Presse and Helen Huang of the University of Sherbrooke with their colleagues (1)wanted to test which foods had the greatest impact on reducing the risk of deficiency as we age.

They analyzed data from a Quebec study of 1,753 people aged 67 to 84 who were followed for four years.

During those four years, 21.8% to 32.5% of participants had low blood levels of the vitamin, and 10.1% to 12.7% were deficient.

The average vitamin B12 intake (half higher and half lower) was 3.19 micrograms per day. The main sources were dairy products, meat, poultry and organ meats.

Because vitamin B12 absorption requires calcium, and dairy products are rich in calcium, the initial hypothesis was that these products might have the greatest effect, Ms. Presse told Canada’s La Presse.

And it was actually noticed. “This is the only food group that has had an impact on reducing the risk of deficiency,” she said.

About 1.6 micrograms per day (μg/day) of vitamin B12 in the form of dairy products is sufficient to reduce the risk of deficiency by 50-60%. This amount corresponds to a large glass of milk. “One or two servings of dairy products per day are probably enough to significantly reduce the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults.concludes the researcher.

She points out that Health Canada currently recommends 2.4 μg of vitamin B12 per day (from any source) for seniors. But she continued, based on her team’s work, to see a significant reduction in deficiency risk from just 4.8 μg per day.

“2.4 μg per day is definitely too low, everyone agrees on that.” If we look at research and work around the world, we would often suggest 5 to 10 μg per day. »

“We believe that needs increase, especially with age, because absorption becomes less efficient. So maybe 2.4 micrograms is fine when you’re 30, but more when you’re 70. »

This may mean that dairy products are especially important for older people not only because of vitamin B12, but also because of calcium, vitamin D and protein, M. Presse emphasizes.

See the links below for more information.

(1) He Helen Huang, Alan A Cohen, Pierrette Gaudreau, Christiane Auray-Blais, David Allard, Michel Boutin, Isabelle Reid, Valérie Turcot, Nancy Presse.

Psychomedia with sources: Journal of Nutrition, Journal of Nutrition, Canadian Press (Le Devoir).
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