Eating vegetables is not always exciting for many, but we all know that veggies form part and parcel of a healthy balanced diet so we can’t avoid them.
But now research by Oxford University scientists, published in the journal Neurology, suggests that the vegetarian diet may not be all that helpful. In fact, it could be dangerous to your brain, especially in old age.
The research revealed that older people on a meat-free diet were six times more likely to suffer from brain shrinkage linked to a lack of vitamin B12, a nutrient that is abundant in red meat, liver, milk and fish.
For this reason, vegans and vegetarians are the most likely to be deficient in the vitamin and thus most likely to suffer from brain damage. However, yeast extract is one of the few vegetarian foods that are rich in vitamin B12.
The Oxford University scientists used memory tests, physical checks and brain scans to examine 107 people aged between 61 and 87. When the volunteers were retested five years later, the researchers found those with the lowest dietary intakes of vitamin B12 were also the most likely to have brain shrinkage.
This study confirms earlier research that showed a link between brain wasting and low intake of B12.
That said, I guess when it comes to diets and what to eat or not eat, the bottom line still remains: stick to a balanced diet with moderation as the key.
But for those who have chosen a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, it’s important to factor in vegetarian foods that have good amounts of vitamin B12… or else consider taking up some “brain strengthening” hobbies like cryptic crosswords or Sudoku…
It would also be interesting to find out if there’s a similar link between vitamin B12 intake and brain activity in younger populations, or whether a vitamin B12 intervention in older groups reverses the effects of brain shrinkage.