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Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Dec;64(6):856-9.

Hormone replacement therapy and cobalamin status in elderly women.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles 90033, USA.


Serum cobalamin concentrations are frequently low in the elderly but the cause is often not apparent. Because oral contraceptives have been associated with low cobalamin concentrations in young women, we compared hormone use with cobalamin status in elderly women to determine whether it could account for their unexplained low cobalamin concentrations. Thirty-eight of the 111 women had abnormal cobalamin status (defined by low cobalamin, elevated methylmalonic acid, and/or elevated homocysteine concentrations) and 73 had normal status. There was no difference in hormone use between the two groups: 7 (18.4%) of the 38 cobalamin-deficient subjects used estrogens compared with 20 (27.4%) of the 73 control subjects. No differences in hormone use were apparent either when analysis was confined to abnormal serum cobalamin concentrations alone. Similarly, the 27 women taking hormones and the 84 women not taking hormones did not have significantly different serum cobalamin or serum total homocysteine concentrations. Indeed, hormone users had slightly, though not significantly, higher cobalamin concentrations and lower homocysteine concentrations than nonusers; furthermore, hormone users also had significantly lower serum methylmalonic acid concentrations. Thus, neither cobalamin concentrations nor cobalamin metabolic status were significantly worse in elderly women taking estrogen than in those not taking it (and, if anything, may have been slightly better). Hormone use does not appear to be a significant contributor to the low cobalamin concentrations or the mild metabolic evidence of cobalamin deficiency so often seen in the elderly.

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