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There are few studies regarding vitamin B12 deficiency in developing countries. In Brazil, a late diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency progressing to severe neurological damage is common. Thus, the aim of the present study was to verify the frequency of vitamin B12 deficiency in two Brazilian populations (elderly and adult participants) and to compare different methods of vitamin B12 deficiency detection.
Five hundred participants were recruited from health centres from south-east Brazil and were separated into two groups: 60 years old or more and 30–59 years old. Vitamin B12 and folate concentrations were measured using electrochemiluminescence immunoassay (ECI) and RIA. Methylmalonic acid (MMA) was measured by LC coupled to tandem MS. Full blood counts were acquired using standard methods.
All participants had normal blood count results and mean cell volume less than 99 fl; none of them presented folate deficiency according to the results, which were all greater than 3 ng/ml. Cobalamin levels less than 200 pmol/l were identified by one of the two or by both methods in 7·2 % of the participants aged 60 years or more and 6·4 % of the participants aged 30–59 years. MMA levels were higher in older subjects (P = 0·007) compared with younger subjects. A greater correlation of MMA v. RIA was observed than of MMA v. ECI (P = 0·0017 v. P = 0·014). MMA quantification estimated that cobalamin deficiency was present in more than 11 % of the subjects for both studied groups.
The study shows that vitamin B12 deficiency is frequent in Brazilian adults and suggests that RIA is more sensitive than ECl for measuring cobalamin levels.
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