Assessing the impact of oral vitamin B12 supplementation on vibration sensitivity, dexterity, and balance in young adult vegetarians and vegans
Vitamin B12, found only in animal products, is a water-soluble vitamin important for DNA methylation, purine and pyrimidine synthesis, and the myelination of nerves. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, gait disturbances, altered vibration proprioception, impaired vision, psychosis, depression, dementia-like illness, and ultimately death. Because vegetarians and vegans consume fewer animal products in their diet than omnivores, they are inherently more at risk for developing these symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine the correlation between nervous system markers (balance, dexterity, and vibration sensitivity) and markers of vitamin B12 nutriture (serum B12 and serum holo-transcobalamin II) in a cross-sectional study (n=38). In addition, the impact of daily oral vitamin B12 supplementation on these markers in an 8-week randomized controlled trial was also examined (n=18). The results of the cross-sectional study revealed a moderate correlation (R=-0.351, p=0.031) between serum B12 and left-hand functional dexterity. The results of the intervention study revealed no significant time*group interactions for markers of nervous system functions and biochemical values (after the removal of outliers). In addition, the time*group interaction appeared to be larger for those individuals with a baseline serum B12 of less than 303 pmol/L. These results suggest that vitamin B12 supplementation may have a more pronounced effect on those individuals who are in a state of vitamin B12 depletion (<303 pmol/L serum concentration). In addition, the results also suggest that 8 weeks of oral supplementation is not a long enough period to create significant clinical change, and it is likely that improvements in neurological measures would require long-term supplementation.