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Essential Nutrients-Cognition:  Research Article

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Cognitive Function and Low Cobalamine

CITATION:  Louwman, M.W.J., van Dusseldorp, M., et al.  (2000)  Signs of Impaired Cognitive Function in Adolescents with Marginal Cobalamin Status.  Am J Clin Nutr; 72:762-9.

ABSTRACT: 

Background: Lack of cobalamin may lead to neurologic disorders, which have been reported in strict vegetarians. 

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate whether cognitive functioning is affected in adolescents (aged 10–16 y) with marginal cobalamin status as a result of being fed a macrobiotic diet up to an average age of 6 y.

Design: Data on dietary intake, psychological test performance, and biochemical variables of cobalamin status were collected from 48 adolescents who consumed macrobiotic (vegan type) diets up to the age of 6 y, subsequently followed by lactovegetarian or omnivorous diets, and from 24 subjects (aged 10–18 y) who were fed omnivorous diets from birth onward. Thirty-one subjects from the previously macrobiotic group were cobalamin deficient according to their plasma methylmalonic acid concentrations. Seventeen previously macrobiotic subjects and all control subjects had normal cobalamin status.

Results: The control subjects performed better on most psychological tests than did macrobiotic subjects with low or normal cobalamin status. A significant relation between test score and cobalamin deficiency (P = 0.01) was observed for a test measuring fluid intelligence (correlation coefficient: –0.28; 95% CI: –0.48, –0.08). This effect became more pronounced (P = 0.003) within the subgroup of macrobiotic subjects (correlation coefficient: –0.38; 95% CI: –0.62, –0.14).
Conclusion: Our data suggest that cobalamin deficiency, in the absence of hematologic signs, may lead to impaired cognitive performance in adolescents.

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