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Why Vitamin B Supplements May Help Older Diabetics’ Cognitive Health

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Corey Schuler, R.N., M.S., C.N.S., D.C.

Director of Clinical Affairs, Integrative Therapeutics

A common diabetes medication has been associated with B-vitamin deficiency and cognitive dysfunction in older adults, but new research shows fortified foods and supplements can improve B-vitamin levels, and may help older diabetics maintain cognitive health.

Researchers studied over 4,100 older people without dementia, who had normal glucose or high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, and published their findings in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Of the participants, 318 were taking the common diabetes medicine Metformin and 1,986 were not taking the drug. 

The researchers’ objective was to determine the impact of hyperglycemia and metformin use on relevant B-vitamin biomarkers and cognitive outcomes in older adults. They measured biomarkers for folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and riboflavin and conducted cognitive assessments.

They concluded using metformin was associated with a higher risk of deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. Next, they determined fortified foods, eaten on a regular basis, had a positive impact on all relevant B-vitamin biomarkers, including on people with hyperglycemia. They also found metformin use to be associated with increased risk for cognitive dysfunction.

Staying sharp

No one likes the idea of having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Nobody wants to lose their cognitive function. These aren’t necessarily complications caused by diabetes, they’re complications of the medicine for the disease.

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Anyone taking metformin should contact their doctor to have routine blood tests on their B12 levels. Peripheral neuropathy, such as leg or arm pain, is the most significant consequence of not having enough vitamin B12.

Active B complex seems to be the most comprehensive and prudent approach, as B-vitamins help with cellular energy production. The standard supplement dose is two capsules a day. Patients can also eat foods fortified with B-vitamins including bread, cereal, clams, and beef.

Corey Schuler, R.N., M.S., C.N.S., D.C., Director of Clinical Affairs, Integrative Therapeutics, [email protected]

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