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Br J Nutr. 2018 Mar;119(6):629-635. doi: 10.1017/S0007114518000090. Epub 2018 Feb 15.

Identification of vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarian Indians.

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Pathology Laboratory,Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital & Research Centre,Pune 411004, Maharashtra,India.


The prevalence of a sub-clinical vitamin B12 deficiency in the vegetarians is high. Total serum vitamin B12 concentration alone does not reliably reflect vitamin B12 status. Holotranscobalamin (holo-TC) II is a bioactive B12 fraction promoting specific uptake of B12 by cells and the circulating concentration reflects the intake of B12, whereas total homocysteine (tHcy) indicates the metabolic ability. In this study, we investigated the diagnostic value of circulating holo-TC, B12, folate and homocysteine in vegetarians who were at risk of B12 deficiency. B12-related biomarkers were measured in 119 young, healthy graduate vegetarians. None was folate deficient. As per reported definition, half were B12 deficient; 70 % of males and 50 % of females had low plasma holo-TC concentrations; and 92 % of males and half of females had hyperhomocysteinaemia. None had any clinical signs of B12 deficiency. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis demonstrated similar AUC at the B12 concentration of 100 and 150 pmol/l when holo-TC (0·777 and 0·784) and homocysteine (0·924 and 0·928) were used as variables. Cut-off value of 100 pmol/l resulted in the highest sensitivity of 77·78 % and specificity of 71·05 % with a predictive value of 19·6 pmol/l for holo-TC and a sensitivity of 82·72 % and specificity of 89·7 % with a predictive value of 21·7 µmol/l for homocysteine. The combination of B12, holo-TC and tHcy improves the diagnostic accuracy at these cut-offs, and we suggest that for the young Indian vegetarians the cut-off for plasma B12 and holotrancobalamin is 100 pmol/l and 19·6 pmol/l, respectively, and for homocysteine it is 17·6 (females) and 27 µmol/l (males) for identifying B12 deficiency.


Hcy homocysteine; MMA methylmalonic acid; holo-TC holotranscobalamin; tHcy total homocysteine; Folate; Holotranscobalamin; Homocysteine; Vitamin B12

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