Did you know that vitamin B12 is vital for the health of your brain? And did you also know that your doctor might miss a deficiency if he doesn't use the right test? It's true.

A Welch study on 84 participants (aged 69 and up) has connected cognitive decline to vitamin B12. However, the connection was not to the absolute level of B12 in their blood. The connection was made in a test called MMA, which measures B12 activity. Researchers found that a lot of the participants had a "metabolically significant B12 deficiency." In fact, 43% of them had the deficiency.

MMA stands for methylmalonic acid. This chemical builds up in your blood when the activity of B12 is insufficient. In other words, you can have a good level of B12 on a routine B12 test. But for various reasons, genetic or otherwise, the activity of B12 might not be enough. That's when MMA will rise. The higher your MMA levels, the less active your B12 is. Many people might have a hidden B12 activity deficiency without knowing it. They could be lulled into complacency simply because of a "normal" level in their blood.
I'll use myself as a case in point. I'm vegetarian. We are known to be at higher risk of B12 deficiency. I recently had a B12 test done. It was in the reference range, but on the low side. The typical doctor might shrug it off and tell you that you're fine. However, I also had my MMA measured. It was startlingly high. I immediately started B12 injections.

As you age, your ability to absorb B12 falls. That's due to declining stomach acid production. So it might not matter if you're getting sufficient B12 in your diet, or whether you're a meat eater or vegetarian. I like the MMA test and strongly suggest it to anyone over the age of 50.

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Action to take: Next time you're in for routine screening, ask for the MMA test. If elevated, you'll need supplemental B12. Vitamin B12 orally may work. But with this nutrient, I don't play games. I have seen awesome results in older people from B12 injections even when they had normal blood levels. Even medical dogma has begun to change about this, though belatedly. Your doctor can send you home with a bottle of injectable vitamin B12 for you to self administer as often as you both think necessary.

Ref: "Methylmalonic acid and cognitive function in the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Aging Study," McCracken C, Hudson P, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2006; 84(6): 1406-11.
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