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Endocr J. 2013;60(12):1275-80. Epub 2013 Sep 8.

Relationship between metformin use, vitamin B12 deficiency, hyperhomocysteinemia and vascular complications in patients with type 2 diabetes.

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Diabetes Center, Aizawa Hospital, Matsumoto, Japan.


Aim of the study was to clarify the relationship between metformin-induced vitamin B12 (B12) deficiency, hyperhomocysteinemia and vascular complications in patients with type 2 diabetes. Serum B12 concentrations, homocysteine plasma levels, the presence of retinopathy and history of macroangiopathy (stroke or coronary heart disease) were analyzed in patients without renal dysfunction (serum creatinine<115 μmol/L). Firstly, B12 status was analyzed in 62 consecutive metformin-treated patients. Secondly, the relationship between B12, homocysteine and vascular complications was analyzed in 46 metformin-treated and 38 age- and sex-matched non-metformin-treated patients. Among the 62 consecutive metformin-treated patients, B12 was deficient (<150 pmol/L) in 8 (13%) and borderline-deficient (150-220 pmol/L) in 18 (29%): the larger the metformin dosage, the lower the B12 (P=0.02, Spearman's ρ=-0.30). There were independent correlations between metformin use and B12 lowering (P=0.02, r = -0.25), and B12 lowering and elevation of homocysteine (P<0.01, r=-0.34). Elevation of homocysteine was a risk for retinopathy (P=0.02, OR 1.26, 95%CI 1.04-1.52). There was no significant relation between homocysteine and macroangiopathy. Correlation between B12 and homocysteine was stronger in metformin-treated (P<0.01, r=-0.48) than non-metformin-treated (P=0.04, r=-0.38) patients. In ten B12 deficient patients, B12 supplementation (1,500 μg/day) for 2.2±1.0 months with continued use of metformin raised B12 levels: 152±42 and 299±97 pmol/L before and after treatment, respectively (P<0.01). Metformin-induced B12 lowering in diabetes was associated with elevation of homocysteine, and hyperhomocysteinemia was independently related to retinopathy. Metformin-induced B12 deficiency was correctable with B12 supplementation.

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