How to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency common as you age

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Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common with age, mainly due to a reduced ability to absorb the vitamin, indicate the authors of a Quebec study published in November 2022 in the Journal of Nutrition.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible neurological damage.

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

Elderly people are considered to be at risk for low B12 status given age-related physiological changes as well as taking certain medications that can impact B12 digestibility (e.g. antidiabetic metformin).

Nancy Presse and He Helen Huang from the University of Sherbrooke have, with their colleagues (1)wanted to check which foods had the most impact on reducing the risk of deficiency as we age.

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

Over those four years, 21.8% to 32.5% of participants had low blood levels of the vitamin and 10.1% to 12.7% had a deficiency.

The median intake (half taking more and half taking less) of vitamin B12 was 3.19 micrograms per day. The main sources were dairy products, meat, poultry and organ meats.

Since the absorption of vitamin B12 requires calcium, and since dairy products are rich in calcium, the starting hypothesis was that these products could have the most marked impact, Ms Presse explained to La Presse. Canadian.

And this is indeed what was observed. “This is the only food group that came out as having an impact on decreasing the risk of deficiency,” she said.

An intake of approximately 1.6 micrograms per day (μg/day) of vitamin B12 in the form of dairy products is sufficient to induce a significant reduction in the risk of deficiency, of the order of 50 to 60%. This quantity corresponds to a large glass of milk. “One to two servings of dairy products per day would probably be sufficient to induce a marked reduction in the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly.concludes the researcher.

Health Canada, she recalls, currently recommends that seniors consume 2.4 μg/day of vitamin B12 (from any source). However, she continues, according to the work of her team, a marked reduction in the risk of deficiency is only observed from 4.8 μg/day.

“The 2.4 μg/day is really too low, everyone pretty much agrees on that. If we look at studies and works around the world, we will often suggest between 5 and 10 μg / day. »

“We think that the needs increase, precisely as we age, because absorption is less and less efficient. So maybe 2.4 micrograms is fine when you’re 30, but more when you’re 70. »

This could mean that dairy products are of particular importance for the elderly, not only with regard to vitamin B12, but also for calcium, vitamin D and proteins, underlines Ms Presse.

For more information, see the links below.

(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: The Journal of Nutrition, The Journal of Nutrition, The Canadian Press (Le Devoir).
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