B Vitamin Status and Concentrations of Homocysteine
and Methylmalonic Acid in Elderly German Women

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Am J Clin Nutr 2003 (Oct);   78 (4):   765772

Wolters M, Hermann S, Hahn A

Institute of Food Science,
Department of Applied Chemistry,
University of Hanover,
Hanover, Germany.

BACKGROUND:   Prior investigations found that elderly persons are at higher risk than are younger persons for B vitamin deficiency, which leads to elevated plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) concentrations that are associated with an increased risk for certain diseases such as coronary artery disease. To date, published data have shown decreased vitamin status and elevated tHcy among the elderly.

OBJECTIVE:   We evaluated the dietary intake and the blood status of various B vitamins and tHcy and methylmalonic acid (MMA) concentrations in 178 younger (60-70-y-old) female seniors.

DESIGN:   Dietary intake was assessed with a 3-d diet record. Thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 activity coefficients of erythrocyte transketolase (EC, erythrocyte glutathione reductase (EC, and erythrocyte alpha-aspartic aminotransferase (EC were used as functional indexes for the status of the 3 vitamins, respectively. Concentrations of serum and red blood cell folate, serum cobalamin and MMA, and plasma tHcy were measured.

RESULTS:   Indexes of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin indicated insufficient status in one-third of the women, whereas tHcy and MMA concentrations were elevated in 17.4% and 9.6% of the women, respectively. An association between vitamin intake and vitamin concentration in the blood was found only for folate. The mean tHcy concentration in subjects in the lowest quartile of serum folate concentration was 23% higher than that in subjects in the highest quartile. There was no association between riboflavin and tHcy concentrations. MMA was positively correlated with age and inversely correlated with serum cobalamin concentration.

CONCLUSIONS:   Even in younger, well-educated, female seniors, the prevalence of low B vitamin status and elevated plasma tHcy concentration is high. Thiamine, pyridoxine, folate, and cobalamin supplementation should be considered.

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