Elderly people are more likely to have B-vitamin deficiencies than younger people. While diet plays an important role, the elderly’s greater use of prescription drugs and lower vitamin bioavailability also contribute to these deficiencies. In addition, the activity of enzymes involved in vitamin metabolism declines 25% between the ages of 18 and 90. Because homocysteine is a risk factor for coronary artery disease—and one that increases with advancing age—scientists are exploring how B vitamins may influence homocysteine levels.
Researchers at Germany’s University of Hanover evaluated the dietary intake and blood status of 178 German women aged 60 to 70 years old.* The study participants completed a three-day diet record that assessed their energy and nutrient intakes. This was compared to the corresponding recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for older women. Blood samples were drawn after an overnight fast and used to measure the levels of thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), cobalamin (B12), folate, and homocysteine.
Riboflavin intake was sufficient for the most part, with only 2% of the study participants below the RDA. By contrast, more than 82% of the women had a folate intake below the RDA. Blood levels of cobalamin, thiamine, and pyridoxine were below the respective RDAs for these vitamins in 42%, 29%, and 17% of the women, respectively. Plasma homocysteine was dramatically elevated in 17% of the study participants. Because the subjects had above-average levels of education, the researchers speculated that poor B-vitamin status might be even more prevalent in the general population.
This study found significantly higher homocysteine levels when both folate and cobalamin were low. Supplementation with B vitamins is therefore advisable, as is a follow-up test of homocysteine levels to ensure that your vitamin intake is appropriate.