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Br J Nutr. 2006 Sep;96(3):508-15.

Plasma homocysteine, folate and vitamin B(12) compared between rural Gambian and UK adults.

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Medical Research Council, Keneba, The Gambia.


The disease risk indicator plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) is influenced by genetic and environmental factors, including folate and vitamin B(12) status. Little is known about the determinants of tHcy in rural West Africa. We explored the hypothesis that tHcy in rural Gambian adults might vary between the sexes and physiological groups, and/or with folate and vitamin B(12) status. Comparisons were made with a British national survey. Non-pregnant Gambian women (n 158) had tHcy concentrations (geometric mean 9.0 micromol/l) similar to those of non-pregnant UK women (n 449; 9.4 micromol/l), whereas pregnant Gambian women (n 12) had significantly lower values (6.2 micromol/l). Gambian men (n 22) had significantly higher values (14.7 micromol/l) than British men (n 354; 10.8 micromol/l). Gambian lactating women and British men and women exhibited significant inverse relationships between log(e)(tHcy) and folate status; however, only the British subjects exhibited significant inverse relationships between loge(tHcy) and vitamin B(12) status. In the British sample, and in Gambian lactating women, folate and vitamin B(12) status variations together accounted for 20-25 % of the variation in log(e)(tHcy). Within the UK, black-skinned adults had folate and tHcy levels similar to those of their white-skinned counterparts, but significantly higher vitamin B(12) values. We conclude that, whereas folate and vitamin B(12) status are similar between British and rural Gambian populations, tHcy is higher in Gambian men and lower in pregnant Gambian women, and that serum vitamin B(12) values appear to be higher in black-skinned than white-skinned British subjects. Possible reasons are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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