Homocysteine, b vitamins, and the elderly.




Am J Clin Nutr

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Folic Acid Vitamin B12 Aging
Professional Data: Folic Acid Vitamin B12 Aging


On the cellular level, Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the replication of DNA while supporting growth of the body's cells. The vitamin is also vital for the function and maintenance of the nervous system and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is instrumental in the body's metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Like vitamin B12, folic acid is necessary for the production of both DNA and RNA. It is therefore essential for proper cellular division and the transmission of the genetic code to all newly formed cells. It is also essential for the health of red blood cells and the production of proteins and various amino acids. Folic acid is a member of the water-soluble B vitamin group. Isolated in 1946 from spinach leaves, its name comes from folium, the Latin word for leaf. In the body, folic acid is converted to a more biologically active form. Folic acid can also lower homocysteine levels.

Studies have shown cognitive skills such as knowing, thinking, learning and judging can be impaired in older adults with low levels of certain B vitamins. Supplementation with folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 has been effective in enhancing cognitive performance in older adults.1

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the role of homocysteine and cognitive function in older Latinos in the Sacramento area. The researchers evaluated cognition, homocysteine, and nutrient levels of vitamin b12 and folate. In addition, other variables were measured such as age, sex, and education. After analyzing the results, age and education did not show a strong association in mental status. Higher homocysteine levels were linked to a mental decline. The authors stated that administering vitamin B12 and folate may reduce homocysteine levels and therefore potentially protecting against cognitive decline in the elderly.2


1. Calversi E, Bryan J. B vitamins, cognition, and aging: a review. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. Nov2001;56(6):P327-39.
2. Miller JW, et al. Homocysteine and cognitive function in the Sacramento area Latino Study on Aging. Am J Clin Nutr. Sep 2003;78(3):441-7.