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Vitamin B12 deficiency and Alzheimer's disease

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA. Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with the development of megaloblastic anemia, mental dysfunction, and dementia resembling Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a very important cofactor in several biochemical reactions including the conversion of homocysteine to methionine and the synthesis of SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). These reactions are believed to be crucial in maintaining neurological health.

Researchers at the University of Milan now report that a vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with higher levels of the inflammatory cytokine, tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and reduced levels of epidermal growth factor (EGF). It is believed that high levels of TNF-alpha speed up the progression of Alzheimer's disease thus explaining the association between low vitamin B12 levels and Alzheimer's. The researchers point out that the increase in TNF-alpha and the decrease in EGF can both be reversed by vitamin B12 supplementation. TNF-alpha is also implicated in the progression of HIV to AIDS and vitamin B12 has been found to slow this progression.
Editor's Note: Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread among older people. Taking a 1 mg sublingual B12 tablet daily could prevent a lot of future health problems.
Miller, Joshua W. Vitamin B12 deficiency, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and epidermal growth factor: a novel function of vitamin B12? Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 60, May 2002, pp. 142-51

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