Getting Enough B12?
A new study at Tufts shows older Americans aren't the only ones at risk due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Are you getting your fill?
Boston [09.10.01] Until recently, scientists thought older Americans were most likely to have vitamin B12 deficiency -- which can cause confusion, numbness, anemia and dementia. But new findings from researchers at Tufts show a surprising number of young Americans -- between 20 and 50 years old -- may be just as much at risk.
According to Los Angeles' local CBS news station, a study at Tufts of 3,000 adults found that nearly 40 percent had levels of B12 that were low enough to cause neurological symptoms.
"I think there is a lot of undetected vitamin B12 deficiency out there," Tufts' Katherine Tucker, the study's lead author, told Agricultural Research Magazine.
The findings were surprising to the researchers, who expected the problem to be most common among the elderly.
"We thought that low concentrations of B12 would increase with age," Tucker told the magazine. "But we saw a high prevalence of low B12 even among the youngest group."
While sources of the vitamin are easy to find, many people still have low levels of B12 in their bodies, said Tucker, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.
The problem isn't finding sources -- poultry, eggs, dairy products and fortified cereals all contain the vitamins -- but absorbing it.
"B12 in meat can be more difficult to absorb as you age because the vitamin is bound to protein in the meat and requires acid to break down," reported the CBS station. "With age, your body produces less acid in the stomach."
In younger adults, Tucker said antacids may be to blame -- reducing acid levels and causing poor absorption of B12.
The solution, said the nutrition expert, may be fortified cereals, dairy products or supplements. All three reduced B12 deficiency in up to half of the volunteers in the Tufts study.