A surprisingly common source of memory loss symptoms is a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 intake is necessary for healthy brain function, and also maintaining intact myelin sheaths (the protective covering around nerves.)
Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 deficiency include:
– memory loss and dementia symptoms
– numbness and tingling of the arms and legs
– difficulty with balance and walking
– mood changes, especially depression
Several of these signs can occur even with “low normal” Vitamin B-12 blood test results. Also, many older adults have an impaired ability to absorb Vitamin B12 from dietary sources.
Worried about the memory health of someone close to you? Try the free Memory Loss Checklist to determine the possibility of serious memory loss symptoms.
Reference Ranges & How to Diagnose Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
A blood test is required to establish your level of Vitamin B-12. Most lab results will indicated that a “normal” reference range for B-12 levels is 200 – 900 ng/L (or pg/mL). However, many clinicians believe that 200 ng/L is too low for normal B-12 levels.
Values of less than 200 ng/L are a sign of acute vitamin B12 deficiency. People below 200 are likely to have or develop B-12 deficiency symptoms.
Older adults with vitamin B12 levels between 200 – 500 ng/L may also have B-12 deficiency symptoms. This is because many older adults have an impaired ability to absorb B-12 from food sources.
Recommended Daily Values for Vitamin B-12, Thiamin
The Institute of Medicine (part of the US National Academy of Sciences) recommends the following daily intake levels for Vitamin B-12 and Thiamin:
Vitamin B-12: 2.4 mcg (micrograms)/day
Thiamin: 1.2 mg (milligrams)/day
In addition to dietary sources such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, clams, and fish, Vitamin B-12 intake can be increased with oral supplements, transdermal patch, nasal spray, and intramuscular injection.
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin) Deficiency
With the introduction of Vitamin B-1 (thiamin) fortified cereals and grains during the past few decades, cases of Vitamin B1 deficiency have declined significantly. Currently, the most common causes of Vitamin B-1 deficiency are chronic, acute alcoholism and anorexia. People with Crohn’s disease, and individuals on kidney dialysis are also at risk of Vitamin B-1 deficiency.
Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome is the typical result of alcoholism induced Vitamin B-1 deficiency. Symptoms include memory loss, impairment of reflex and motor functions, confusion and hallucinations. Infusion therapy with thiamin can reduce symptoms, but memory loss tends to remain in people with Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome.