This evening I came across an interesting article in the New York Times about the neurological risks of a vitamin B12 deficiency. A number of recent studies seem to link a B12 deficiency with different neurological ailments, like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The article mentions a recent study that found brain shrinkage in older adults with low levels of B12, an interesting finding given our rapidly-aging population.
Though I’m certainly interested in the health consequences of B12 shortages, I’ve for some time also been curious as to how B12 supplements may positively affect the body in individuals with normal B12 levels (like myself). Since high school, I’ve used a B12-based energy drink called ZipFizz to give me an extra boost when I need to get up early or study late at night. ZipFizz is rather similar to the infomercial-tastic Five Hour Energy, but contains more B12 and a number of other supplements. To be clear, these kind of drinks still usually contain caffeine (100mg for ZipFizz). But my experience of drinking ZipFizz is qualitatively rather different than guzzling down a pot of coffee. When on B12, I don’t feel jittery or hyper, just calm, concentrated and alert. Also, something I’ve found really useful about ZipFizz is that after the initial 100mg caffeine burst wears off (~1.5hrs, it seems like), you can easily go to sleep if you like. Coffee-drinkers know that this would be impossible after several cups of coffee. I’m sure at least some of the effects of these drinks can be attributed to the placebo effect, but after using ZipFizz for almost 3 years now, I really do think it works well as a vitamin-based energy supplement.
To my knowledge, not much work has been done on the possible health benefits of these B12 supplements, and I’d be curious to see if B12 can be found to act as a mild cognitive enhancer. If anyone knows of any articles addressing this topic, leave them in the comments – I’d love to learn more about this.