A new study published inPLOS ONEhas been able to correlate low vitamin B12 levels in the brain with age, autism and schizophrenia. The researchers collected postmortem brain samples from 43 control subjects ranging in age from 19 weeks of gestation to 80 years, as well as 12 autistic subjects (4-9 years of age) and nine schizophrenic subjects (36-49 years of age).

The samples were tested for five species of vitamin B12, demonstrating combined levels that were 2.7-fold lower in 61-80 year old subjects than those under 20. Methylcobalamin, the predominant form of vitamin B12in younger people, accounted for the greatest disparity across lifespan with 12.4-fold lower levels in the oldest age bracket. Autistic subjects had 3.1-fold lower total B12levels compared to age-matched controls, matching B12levels of control subjects over the age of 50. Schizophrenic subjects had a 3.3-fold lower level of total B12compared to control.

Because serum vitamin B12does not show a similar decrease with age or deficit in autistic individuals, the study further suggests that vitamin B12in the brain compartment is distinctly regulated from the rest of the body.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report of pathologically reduced levels of active Cbl [B12] species in autistic and schizophrenic brain,” said the authors. “Although the number of brain samples analyzed was limited, our findings highlight a possible role for vitamin B12-dependent methylation reactions in brain function and in the etiology of neurological disorders.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online 2/12/2016