Schizophrenia and Autism Linked to Low Levels of B12 in the Brain
A gradual and consistent decline over many years
Researchers have found a common denominator in the brains of people with schizophrenia and autism: low levels of vitamin B12.
For the study, researchers examined the brains of those who have already passed away, with age ranging from the beginning of birth to 80 years old. Researchers found that vitamin B12 levels were 10 times lower in the oldest people compared with the youngest, indicating that levels decline consistently over the course of many years.
In the elderly, B12 levels decline naturally and protect the brain by slowing cellular reactions and the production of DNA-damaging chemicals known as free radicals. However, abnormally-low levels of B12 can be dangerous, causing an extreme decrease in metabolism, which prevents the survival of cells.
Researchers found children under age 10 with autism had brain B12 levels 3 times lower than what other children of the same age have – about the same levels considered normal in healthy adults in their 50s. The findings indicate a premature decline in the vitamin.
May Be The Result of Poor Vitamin B12 Uptake
The scientists also found the levels of B12 in the brains of young people with autism and middle-age people with schizophrenia were approximately 1/3 of the levels found in similarly aged people who did not have either of these conditions. In patients ages 36 to 49 with schizophrenia, levels of B12 were similar to those found in the brains of 72-year-olds.
The study published earlier this year in PLOS One suggests certain neurological conditions may be the result of poor uptake of vitamin B12 from the blood into the brain, as the amount of the vitamin that’s detected in the blood doesn’t always match the amount found in the brain.
There is no definitive research proving a link between autism, schizophrenia, and B12 deficiency, but other studies have suggested links between extreme vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and higher risks of heart disease, troubled pregnancies, depression, and memory loss.
Scientists increasingly believe the human brain has very specific uses for vitamin B 12 that allow it to control gene expression and trigger neurological development at various stages of life, particularly during fetal development and early childhood, as well as from adolescence into adulthood, and middle-age through old-age.
Both neurological conditions are associated with oxidative stress, which plays a significant role in aging. The researchers believe oxidative stress may be the underlying cause of decreased B12 levels in the brain.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.