Eradicating B12 deficiency for the elderly is as simple as screening for it

January 19, 2016, Canadian Science Publishing (NRC Research Press)

New research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism reveals that a high proportion of long-term care residents have a B12 deficiency. Researchers from the University of Waterloo and the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging found that the current state of B12 levels for elderly individuals in long-term care facilities in Ontario warrants considering B12 screening at admission in order to ensure effective treatment.

Currently, prospective long-term care residents are not systematically screened for a B12 deficiency at admission and in some situations not screened unless the individual has symptoms to suggest that they are anemic. However, B12 is linked with many such as depression and dementia and even suboptimal levels of the vitamin can have negative side effects on cognition, function and quality of life. Screening for deficiency is an especially important practice for who are commonly B12 deficient as a result of medications that interfere with the vitamin's absorption.

The research published today in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism looked at eight long-term care facilities in Ontario, finding that 14% of residents displayed a B12 deficiency at admission with another third of study participants having a lower than optimal B12 status. During the year after admission 4% of residents developed a deficiency, while those who received treatment had improved B12 levels. This study is the first step in providing an accurate estimate of the prevalence of B12 deficiency in individuals over the age of 65 being admitted to long-term care. The good news: screening by a simple blood test on an annual basis will help to eradicate this deficiency.

"The negative effects of a B12 deficiency for an at-risk community such as elderly adults in long-term care should be a vital concern for policy makers, staff and leadership at long-term care homes, as well as provincial and federal health departments, and warrants consideration of mandatory B12 screening at admission" states Professor Heather Keller, Schlegel Research Chair Nutrition & Aging, University of Waterloo. "This is of particular importance in the context of our aging population with more Canadians requiring long-term care."

A B12 deficiency is a relatively common but highly preventable deficiency in older adults. To date, there is a minimal understanding of the prevalence of this vitamin deficiency among individuals admitted to long-term care facilities. This study addresses this knowledge gap and makes recommendations for further research including more data on the incidence of B12 deficiencies over the first year of residency at long-term , and the need for additional studies to understand the benefits and costs of screening versus treatment of all residents.

The paper, "Vitamin B12 status in older adults living in Ontario long-term care homes: prevalence and incidence of deficiency with supplementation as a protective factor" by Kaylen Pfisterer (first author), Mike Sharratt, George Heckman and Heather Keller was published today in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

Explore further: Benefits of vitamin B12 supplements for older people questioned

Related Stories

Benefits of vitamin B12 supplements for older people questioned

July 1, 2015
Vitamin B12 supplements offer no benefits for neurological or cognitive function in older people with moderate vitamin B12 deficiency, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

One drop will do: Researchers develop simple new test for vitamin B12 deficiency

October 27, 2014
Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a novel method to test for vitamin B12 deficiency that is sensitive enough to work on anyone, including newborn babies and large swaths of the general population.

Study suggests vitamin deficiency screening needed for refugees

March 4, 2013
New research from the University of Adelaide has discovered a high prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency among refugees, prompting calls for refugees to be routinely screened for the problem soon after they arrive in the country.

Lack of vitamin B12 can cause trouble in school

May 15, 2015
Vitamin B12 deficiency in elementary school children from Bogotá, Colombia, was strongly associated with the students having to repeat a grade and with their number of school absences, researchers from the University of ...

Preventing vitamin B12 deficiency among vegetarians, vegans and the elderly

July 18, 2013
Older people, vegetarians and vegans should take special care to get enough vitamin B12 through changes in their diets, a review of scientific studies on the vitamin has concluded. In the article, published in ACS' Journal ...

Acid-suppressing medications associated with vitamin B12 deficiency

December 10, 2013
Use for 2 or more years of proton pump inhibitors and histamine 2 receptor antagonists (two types of acid-inhibiting medications) was associated with a subsequent new diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Genetic changes associated with physical activity reported

December 10, 2018
Time spent sitting, sleeping and moving is determined in part by our genes, University of Oxford researchers have shown. In one of the most detailed projects of its kind, the scientists studied the activity of 91,105 UK Biobank ...

Licence to Swill: James Bond's drinking over six decades

December 10, 2018
He may be licensed to kill but fictional British secret service agent James Bond has a severe alcohol use disorder, according to an analysis of his drinking behaviour published in the Medical Journal of Australia's Christmas ...

How to survive on 'Game of Thrones': Switch allegiances

December 9, 2018
Characters in the Game of Thrones TV series are more likely to die if they do not switch allegiance, and are male, according to an article published in the open access journal Injury Epidemiology.

Expert calls for strong, sustainable action to make world roadways safer

December 7, 2018
According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report on road safety, more than 1.3 million people die on the world's roadways each year—and millions more are injured or disabled. Yet despite the huge cost to families ...

Hazelnuts improve older adults' micronutrient levels

December 6, 2018
Older adults who added hazelnuts to their diet for a few months significantly improved their levels of two key micronutrients, new research at Oregon State University indicates.

Regular bedtimes and sufficient sleep for children may lead to healthier teens

December 6, 2018
Having a regular, age-appropriate bedtime and getting sufficient sleep from early childhood may be important for healthy body weight in adolescence, according to researchers at Penn State.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.