Poor memory? You may have vitamin B12 deficiency
If you’ve been struggling with your memory, you could be suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Such was the case with Cornish singer and songwriter Suzie Mac, who was an up-and-coming star a little over a year ago. Nowadays, she struggles with weak limbs, overwhelming exhaustion, and a memory that deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t even recall the names of her parents. Mac’s neurologists have pinpointed her vitamin B12 deficiency as the one responsible for her current state.
The 25-year old woman’s condition was diagnosed after she experienced an extreme allergic reaction in February of last year. After consuming a spoonful of curry, which turned out to contain nuts, Mac’s tongue, mouth, and throat swelled; she then promptly vomited, collapsed, and was rushed to the hospital. What followed afterwards was several months of unbearable pain, fatigue, and poor memory retention.
“Over the next few weeks I couldn’t keep awake. I had a terrible stabbing pain behind my eyes, and pins and needles in my arms and legs. My hair also began falling out,” Mac told DailyMail.co.uk. “In June, I went on a songwriting workshop in Spain. I couldn’t remember the lyrics or melody of songs I had just written. One night, I had a severe cramp and fell to the floor. I lay there for hours, too weak to move.
“On the flight home, my legs became numb and swollen and my mum raced me to hospital.”
Once in the hospital, several tests were performed on Mac, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine whether or not she had a brain tumor. In the end, the doctors found out that her vitamin B12 was just 155 picograms per milliliter, far below the minimum of 200 pg/mL for adults.
After Mac’s diagnosis, she was prescribed eight one-milligram doses of hydroxocobalamin for three weeks. The frequency of Mac’s inatke of this injectable form of vitamin B12 was then dropped to a single jab every three months, but her health rapidly worsened once the dosage was lessened. Mac had no choice but to move back in with her parents.
Now, Mac has turned to crowdfunding to help her find a long-term solution to her condition. In her own words: “I’m fighting to get my life back.”
What is vitamin B12 and why is it important?
Vitamin B12, also known as “cobalamin”, is the most structurally complex of the B vitamins. This vitamin can be obtained from plants and animals, but animals and animal products — such as fish, red meat, and dairy — are usually considered to be the superior sources.
Vitamin B12 plays several key roles in maintaining a healthy body, including food-to-energy conversion, red blood cell production, mood regulation, and of course, nervous system and brain function.
How exactly vitamin B12 affects memory is still unclear, but the prevailing theory is that vitamin B12 facilitates proper homocysteine to metionine conversion. Homocysteine is an amino acid that, when turned into methionine, another amino acid, becomes essential to the formation of neurotransmitters, membrane phospholipids, and myelin, which are core components of the nervous system.
Without sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, homocysteine accumulates in the body, resulting in nerve cell death and, possibly, cognitive decline. (Related: Low vitamin B12 levels in elders cause brain shrinkage and possible dementia)
Vitamin B12 deficiency is not a rare condition, however, and is especially ubiquitous in older people. People suffering from Crohn’s disease, patients taking acid reflux medication, and even vegetarians are susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency. The symptoms typically associated with this condition consist of numbness, muscle weakness, tiredness, and poor vision, though these symptoms take some time to develop.