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The prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in a random sample from the Australian population

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journal contribution
posted on 2014-01-01, 00:00 authored by Eileen MooreEileen Moore, Julie PascoJulie Pasco, Alastair Mander, Kerrie Sanders, Ross CarneRoss Carne, Nicole Jenkins, Marion Black, Hans Schneider, David Ames, David WattersDavid Watters
Objective: Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older adults, and may increase the risk of cognitive impairment. The distribution of vitamin B12 insufficiency in younger age groups is less studied. This study aims to assess the prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency (<156ρmol/L) and subclinical low-normal levels (156-250ρmol/L) in a large, random sample of the Australian population across the adult life span.
Methods: We examined serum vitamin B12 levels in a random sample of 1,085 men and 1,125 women aged 20-97 years between 1994 and 2006; in the Barwon Statistical Division, a regional area in south eastern Australia that is representative of the socioeconomic status of the Australian population.
Results: The age-standardised prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in this cohort of men and women was 3.6%. Subclinical low-normal vitamin B12 levels (156-250ρmol/L) were found in 26%. Serum vitamin B12 levels declined with age among men (p-value <0.001) and were lower in men than women (p-value <0.001). Vitamin B12 levels were higher among supplement users (8.0% of the cohort).
Conclusions: Vitamin B12 levels decline with age, and have been associated with neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline. Early intervention by diet education or supplement use to address this age-associated decline in vitamin levels may be an effective strategy to prevent decline in a significant segment of the population. Such intervention may need to start in mid-life (from 50-years of age) before the onset age-related decline in vitamin B12 levels.



Journal of investigational biochemistry






95 - 100


American Society for Clinical Investigation


Ann Arbor, MI





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2014, American Society for Clinical Investigation

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