Vitamin B deficiencies are common in elderly people

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LEUVEN, BELGIUM. An international team of researchers have confirmed that elderly people often suffer from a deficiency of vitamins B-6, B12 and folic acid. Their investigation involved 99 healthy young people (aged 19-55), 64 healthy elderly subjects (aged 65-88), and 286 elderly hospitalized patients (aged 61-97). The researchers measured the blood concentrations of the vitamins in all subjects as well as the concentration of certain metabolic products that tend to build up if a vitamin deficiency is present. They found that 9% of the healthy elderly subjects had a low vitamin B-6 level as compared to more than 51% for the hospitalized patients. Corresponding numbers for vitamin B12 and folic acid were 6% and 5%, and 5% and 19% respectively. Of perhaps greater significance was the finding that in 63% of the healthy elderly subjects and in 83% of the elderly patients the researchers observed an increased serum concentration of one or more of the metabolic products that indicate a deficiency in vitamin B-6, B12 or folate. Thus an elevated level of the metabolite (methylmalonic acid), which indicates a B12 deficiency, was found in 23% of the healthy elderly people and in 39% of the elderly hospitalized patients. Recent experiments have shown that weekly injections of vitamin B12, B-6, and folate are highly effective in normalizing the elevated metabolite concentrations in elderly people.

Joosten, Etienne, et al. Metabolic evidence that deficiencies of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), folate, and vitamin B-6 occur commonly in elderly people. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 58, No. 3, September 1993, pp. 468-76