Vitamin B-12, which is found in animal products, such as meat, shellfish, milk, cheese and eggs, is needed to produce red blood cells and maintain a healthy nervous system. Still, little is known about the vitamin's affects on skeletal health, specifically among aging women. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, led by Dr. Katie Stone, studied whether elderly women with low levels of vitamin B-12 suffer from more rapid bone loss.
Through a random, cohort study of 83 women over the age of 64 who participated in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures, researchers archived baseline serum samples and measured hip bone mineral density in study subjects during two and six year follow-up examinations. Test results demonstrated that after adjusting for age, weight and clinic site, women with the lowest levels of B-12 (below 280 pg/ml) experienced significantly more rapid hip bone loss than women with higher levels of B-12 (above 280 pg/ml).
"While deficiencies in vitamin B-12 are uncommon among younger women, many older women suffer from vitamin B-12 deficiency," explains Dr. Stone. "Our research shows that the women with the lowest levels of vitamin B-12 are at an increased risk for bone loss in their hips, which could lead to fractures. We knew that vitamin B-12 benefited the nervous system, but our findings suggest that it may also benefit bone health." The authors note that these results indicate that for some elderly women, simple dietary supplements of vitamin B-12 or multivitamins or dietary modification may slow the rates of bone loss.