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Open Access Indicators for assessing folate and vitamin B12 status and for monitoring the efficacy of intervention strategies

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Abstract:

Deficiencies of folate or of vitamin B12 are widespread and constitute a major global burden of morbidity affecting all age groups. Detecting or confirming the presence of folate or vitamin B12 deficiency and distinguishing one from the other depends, ultimately, on laboratory testing. Tests to determine the presence of folate or vitamin B12 deficiency are used singly or in combination to establish the nutritional status and prevalence of deficiencies of the vitamins in various populations. The efficacy of interventions through the use of fortification or supplements is monitored using the same laboratory tests. Tests currently in use have limitations that can be either technical or have a biological basis. Consequently, each single test cannot attain perfect sensitivity, specificity, or predictive value. Laboratory indicators of vitamin B12 or folate status involve measurement of either the total or a physiologically relevant fraction of the vitamin in a compartment such as the blood. Thus, assays to measure vitamin B12 or folate in plasma or serum as well as folate in red blood cells are in widespread use, and more recently, methods to measure vitamin B12 associated with the plasma binding protein transcobalamin (holotranscobalamin) have been developed. Alternatively, levels of surrogate biochemical markers that reflect the metabolic function of the vitamin can be used. Surrogates most commonly used are plasma homocysteine, for detection of either vitamin B12 or folate deficiency and methylmalonic acid for detection of vitamin B12 deficiency. The general methods as well as their uses, indications, and limitations are presented.
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  • 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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