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J Nutr. 2003 Sep;133(9):2770-6.

Plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations in an elderly latino population are predicted by serum gastrin concentrations and crystalline vitamin B-12 intake.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, Program in International Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.


The prevalence of vitamin B-12 deficiency increases with age, probably resulting from malabsorption of food-bound B-12 secondary to gastric atrophy. On the basis of this assumption, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends those aged >50 y consume crystalline vitamin B-12. There is limited information on the prevalence of gastric atrophy in the elderly and whether the IOM recommendation would be effective. The objective of this study was to assess predictors of vitamin B-12 status and their interactions in free-living elderly. Individuals (n = 57) with deficient plasma vitamin B-12 (p-B12 < 148 pmol/L) were compared with 68 individuals with marginal p-B12 (148-221 pmol/L) and 52 with normal p-B12 (>221 pmol/L) in a cross-sectional sample (n = 1546) of elderly (>60 y) Latinos in California. Associations were examined among p-B12 and serum gastrin, vitamin B-12 intake from food and crystalline sources, and medications that putatively affect vitamin B-12 absorption. Serum gastrin was elevated, indicating gastric atrophy, in 48% of participants with deficient p-B12, 23% with marginal p-B12 and 21% of normal p-B12 participants, and was a significant predictor of deficient p-B12 and high plasma homocysteine (p-tHcy). Median total vitamin B-12 intake exceeded recommendations and was similar among status groups. Crystalline vitamin B-12 intake in the normal p-B12 group was higher than in the deficient p-B12 group (P < 0.01), and tended to be higher than the marginal group (P = 0.07). When serum gastrin was elevated, p-B12 was predicted by crystalline vitamin B-12, but not by intake of vitamin B-12 from food. Elevated serum gastrin was highly prevalent and predicted vitamin B-12 depletion. Crystalline vitamin B-12 intake predicted p-B12 in individuals with elevated serum gastrin, supporting IOM recommendations to increase consumption of crystalline vitamin B-12.

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