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Eur J Nutr. 2002 Apr;41(2):68-77.

Hyperhomocysteinemia, and low intakes of folic acid and vitamin B12 in urban North India.

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Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.



An adverse coronary risk profile has been reported amongst rural-to-urban migrant population living in urban slums undergoing stressful socio-economic transition. These individuals are likely to have low intakes of folic acid and vitamin B12, which may have an adverse impact on serum levels of homocysteine (Hcy). To test this hypothesis, we studied serum levels of Hcy in subjects living in an urban slum of North India and healthy subjects from urban nonslum area.


Group I consisted of 46 subjects (22 males and 24 females) living in an urban slum, while group II consisted of healthy subjects (n = 26, 13 males and 13 females) living in the adjacent non-slum area. Anthropometric measurements, biochemical profile (fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, serum triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and fasting serum levels of Hcy were measured. Dietary intakes of folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin B1, and iron were calculated by the 24-hour dietary recall method. Serum levels of Hcy were correlated with dietary intakes of nutrients, anthropometry, and metabolic variables.


Sex-adjusted serum levels of Hcy in micromol/L (Mean +/- SD) were high, though statistically comparable, in both the groups (group I: 20.8 +/- 5.9 and group II: 23.2 +/- 5.9). Overall, higher than normal serum levels of Hcy (> 15 micromol/L) were recorded in 84% of the subjects. A substantial proportion of subjects in both groups had daily nutrient intakes below that recommended for the Asian Indian population (folic acid: 93.4% in group I and 96.7% in group II, vitamin B12: 76.1 % in group I and 88.4% in group II). However, between the two groups, average daily dietary intakes of both the nutrients were statistically comparable. As compared to non-vegetarians, vegetarians showed lower intakes of folic acid (p < 0.01) and vitamin B12 (p < 0.01) in both groups. On multivariate linear regression analysis with serum Hcy as the response variable and vegetarian/non-vegetarian status and sex (male/female) as predictor variables, higher serum levels of Hcy were observed in vegetarians vs non-vegetarians (1 = 4.6, p < 0.05) and males vs females (beta = 5.3, p < 0.01).


Low intakes of folic acid and vitamin B12, and hyperhomocysteinemia, in both the healthy population living in urban slums and adjacent urban non-slum areas, are important observations for the prevention of nutritional and cardiovascular diseases in the Indian subcontinent.

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