Meat may prevent memory loss

A vitamin found in meat can help prevent brain shrinkage and protect against memory loss in old age, a new study has found.

In a study conducted by the University of Oxford's Medical Sciences Division and part-funded by charity Alzheimer's Research Trust, scientists found that people with higher vitamin B12 levels in their blood were less likely to experience brain shrinkage.

Vitamin B12 - found in foods such as meat, fish and milk - is crucial to the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.

Rebecca Wood, Alzheimer's Research Trust chief executive, said: "This study suggests that consuming more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals or milk as part of a balanced diet might help protect the brain. Liver and shellfish are particularly rich sources of B12.

"Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common problem among elderly people in the and has been linked to declining memory and dementia. 700,000 people live with dementia in the UK, and more research like this is urgently needed if we are to tackle this cruel condition."

The scientists studied 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87 using brain scans, memory testing and physical exams. The results will be published in science journal 'Neurology'.

Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing director Professor David Smith said: "This study adds another dimension to our understanding of the effects of B vitamins on the brain: the rate of shrinkage of the brain as we age may be partly influenced by what we eat.

"We are following this study up with a clinical trial of B vitamins in the elderly to see if taking these vitamins, including B12, can slow the shrinkage of the brain. The results of the trial, part-funded by the Alzheimer's Research Trust, will be known in 2009."

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