Children With Poor Vitamin B12

Having more difficulties solving cognitive tests, such as the ability to do puzzles, recognizing letters and interpreting other children’s feelings can be attributed to low levels of B12 in small children.  Low B12 levels as a baby was associated with a decrease in test scores at 5 years of age, according to researcher Ingrid Kvestad at Uni Research in Bergen, Norway and her colleagues.  She is also first author on the work that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Results of the study demonstrated associations between early vitamin B12 status and various measures on development and cognitive functioning.  An example is the ability to interpret complex geometrical figures and ability to recognize other children’s emotions.  The study also suggests that vitamin B12 deficiency impairs, or possibly delays, brain development in these small children.

Results indicate that correcting children’s vitamin B12 status early may be one measure to secure a healthy development for children in the low-income countries that do not develop.  Other study contributors have their affiliation at Innlandet Hospital Trust, the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Nepal, Center for Intervention Studies in Maternal and Child Health (CISMAC) at the University of Bergen, Oslo and Akershus University College, Haukeland University Hospital, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In South Asia many eat limited amounts of meat and other animal products and poor vitamin B12 status is prevalent.  Vitamin B12 is important for the development of the brain.  Blood was collected from 500 infants in Bhaktapur, Nepal and then their B12 status was measured.  Five years later they contacted 320 of these children and conducted various developmental and cognitive tests.  Most of the Nepalese children that participated in the study did not have severely low levels of vitamin B12, but their levels were suboptimal and below the recommendations for best possible growth and development.

This seems to be a hidden deficiency in these children’s bodies, making their cells work rigorously to signalize imminent danger.  This study is but one contribution in the big puzzle to understand the implications that low B12 levels might have on small children’s cognitive development.

Dr Fredda Branyon