Harvard Mental Health Letter

Vitamins unlikely to revitalize the mind

As people age, they tend to suffer from vitamin deficiencies. The elderly are commonly deficient in vitamin B12, for example, because they produce less stomach acid than younger people, and therefore are not as able to metabolize this vitamin from food sources. Age-related changes also make older adults less efficient at producing vitamin D following sun exposure. Certain vitamin deficiencies can impair brain functioning. Probably the best known example is vitamin B12 deficiency, which can mimic symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia by causing disorientation and confusion. People can prevent or treat a vitamin B12 deficiency by taking supplements or eating fortified foods — which do not require stomach acid for absorption. Evidence is growing that other sorts of vitamin deficiencies are also associated with cognitive decline or dementia. This has prompted researchers to investigate whether, as in the case of a vitamin B12 deficiency, providing supplements might either prevent deterioration or treat symptoms once they appear. Here’s a quick review of three vitamin therapies most often investigated.
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