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Open Access Review of the magnitude of folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies worldwide

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Abstract:

Human deficiencies of folate and vitamin B12 result in adverse effects which may be of public health significance, but the magnitude of these deficiencies is unknown. Therefore, we examine the prevalence data currently available, assess global coverage of surveys, determine the frequency with which vitamin status assessment methods are used, and identify patterns of status related to geographical distribution and human development. Surveys were identified through PubMed and the Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System at the World Health Organization (WHO). Since different thresholds were frequently used to define deficiency, measures of central tendency were used to compare blood vitamin concentrations among countries. The percentage of countries with at least one survey is highest in the WHO Regions of South-East Asia and Europe. Folate and vitamin B12 status were most frequently assessed in women of reproductive age (34 countries), and in all adults (27 countries), respectively. Folate status assessment surveys assessed plasma or serum concentrations (55%), erythrocyte folate concentrations (21%), or both (23%). Homocysteine was assessed in one-third of the surveys of folate and vitamin B12 status (31% and 34% respectively), while methylmalonic acid was assessed in fewer surveys of vitamin B12 status (13%). No relationship between vitamin concentrations and geographical distribution, level of development, or population groups could be identified, but nationally representative data were few. More representative data and more consistent use of thresholds to define deficiency are needed in order to assess whether folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies are a public health problem.

Keywords: FOLATE DEFICIENCY; FOLIC ACID; HOMOCYSTEINE; METHYLMALONIC ACID; VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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