While aging is a natural progression of life, healthy aging is of the upmost importance ensuring the quality of life of elderly people. Often aging can be accompanied by memory loss or confusion. In the past few decades, the study of age related cognitive decline has come to the forefront of the scientific community. Much research has been done to help identify etiology, prevention and treatment. As the mean age of Canadians increases, there is a push to help combat cognitive decline in order to ease the burden on not only the medical community but families as well. Cognitive degeneration in the form of long term memory loss can have many root causes most notably Alzheimer's, dementia and strokes. This deterioration prevents people from performing their daily activities and retaining their independence.
Nutrition is essential to healthy aging, it has been shown to play a vital role in the development of dementia, memory loss, stroke and vitamin deficiencies. In recent years it has been discovered what physicians once thought was dementia or even a stroke was often in fact a vitamin deficiency. Given what we currently know regarding nutrition’s fundamental role to our overall health why are more elderly patients not screened for nutritional deficiencies as part of their yearly physical? How is it possible that a lack of just one vitamin can mimic one of the most prevalent diseases effecting the elderly population? The scientific community has long studied the role of Vitamin B12 in the human body. This water soluble vitamin is essential for DNA and RNA synthesis, myelin coating, the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose and the absorption of fats and proteins and the creation of red blood cells (Manolis et al 2013).
Vitamin B12 deficiencies is often difficult for most physicians to identify as it can present with multiple symptoms or be asymptomatic as the stores in the body are depleted (Medical Reference Guide 2013). The causes of Vitamin B deficiency include malabsorption, helicobacter pylori infection, pernicious anemia (immune destruction of gastric parietal cells), and nutritional deficiency (Table 1). The prevalence of deficiency in the elderly is often not a result of nutritional deficiency but the lack of acid in the stomach required to break the bonds that bind Vitamin B12 to food (Oh and Brown 2003). There is also a lack of intrinsic factor produced by the stomach that binds to the Vitamin B12 allowing it to be absorbed in the intestine (Oh and Brown 2003). As we age our bodies begin to produce less stomach acid and resulting vitamin and mineral inadequacies occur (Oh and Brown 2003).
Some of the most common symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, weight loss, weakness, depression, memory impairment, heart attack and stroke (Table 2). The Canada Dietary Reference Intake advises that people >70 years of age obtain 2.4 μg/day of Vitamin B12 (Antonis, S. et al. 2013). Prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly is...