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BACKGROUND: Aging is associated with a progressive decline in vitamin B-12 status. Overt vitamin B-12 deficiency causes neurologic disturbances in peripheral and central motor and sensory systems, but the public health impact for neurologic disease of moderately low vitamin B-12 status in older people is unclear. Evidence from observational studies is limited by heterogeneity in the definition of vitamin B-12 status and imprecise measures of nerve function. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to determine whether vitamin B-12 status is associated with electrophysiologic indexes of peripheral or central neurologic function in asymptomatic older people with moderately low vitamin B-12 status. DESIGN: We used a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the Older People and Enhanced Neurological Function study conducted in Southeast England. This trial investigated the effectiveness of vitamin B-12 supplementation on electrophysiologic indexes of neurologic function in asymptomatic older people (mean age: 80 y) with moderately low vitamin B-12 status (serum vitamin B-12 concentrations ≥107 and <210 pmol/L without anemia, n = 201). Vitamin B-12 status was assessed with the use of total vitamin B-12, holotranscobalamin, and a composite indicator of vitamin B-12 status (cB-12). Electrophysiologic measures of sensory and motor components of peripheral and central nerve function were assessed in all participants by a single observer. RESULTS: In multivariate models, there was no evidence of an association of vitamin B-12, holotranscobalamin, or cB-12 with any nerve conduction outcome. There was also no evidence of an association of vitamin B-12 status with clinical markers of neurologic function. CONCLUSION: This secondary analysis of high-quality trial data did not show any association of any measure of vitamin B-12 status with either peripheral or central neurologic function or any clinical markers of neurologic function in older people with moderately low vitamin B-12 status. The results of this study are unlikely to be generalizable to a less healthy older population with more severe vitamin B-12 deficiency. This trial was registered at as ISRCTN54195799.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Clin Nutr

Publication Date





790 - 796


central nerve conduction, neurologic, older people, peripheral conduction, vitamin B-12, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Asymptomatic Diseases, Biomarkers, Central Nervous System Diseases, Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic, Cross-Sectional Studies, Dietary Supplements, Double-Blind Method, Elder Nutritional Physiological Phenomena, Electrophysiological Phenomena, England, Female, Geriatric Assessment, Humans, Male, Multivariate Analysis, Neural Conduction, Neurologic Examination, Nutritional Status, Peripheral Nervous System Diseases, Severity of Illness Index, Vitamin B 12, Vitamin B 12 Deficiency