Can vitamin B-12 improve memory in Alzheimer's disease?
Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. Vitamin B-12 deficiency — most common in older adults and vegetarians — can cause various signs and symptoms, including memory loss. In these cases, vitamin B-12 supplements can help improve memory.
Aside from treating vitamin B-12 deficiency, there's no clear evidence that vitamin B-12 supplements improve memory for people with Alzheimer's disease.
Some studies suggest low vitamin B-12 levels may be associated with an increased risk of dementia. But supplementation with B vitamins has not been shown to improve brain function or symptoms of memory loss.
Regardless of its role in memory, vitamin B-12 remains an important part of a healthy diet.
Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in foods that come from animals, including fish, meat and poultry. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B-12.
If you're concerned that you're not getting enough vitamin B-12 or other specific nutrients, consult your doctor — especially if you're an older adult or a vegetarian.
Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.
April 20, 2019
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See more Expert Answers
- Dietary supplement fact sheet: Vitamin B12. Office of Dietary Supplements. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminB12/. Accessed Sept 19, 2016.
- Press D, et al. Prevention of dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.
- Van Dyck CH, et al. Cognitive and psychiatric effects of vitamin B12 replacement in dementia with low serum B12 levels: A nursing home study. International Psychogeriatrics. 2009;21:138.
- Fairfield K. Vitamin supplementation in disease prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 19, 2016.