Low Serum Vitamin B-12 Concentrations Are Prevalent in a Cohort of Pregnant Canadian Women1-3

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Abstract

Background:

Among Canadian women of reproductive age, 5% and 20% have serum vitamin B-12 concentrations indicative of deficiency (<148 pmol/L) and marginal status (148-220 pmol/L), respectively. Given the association between suboptimal vitamin B-12 and adverse pregnancy outcomes, an understanding of vitamin B-12 status during pregnancy, and factors that influence it, is required.

Objective:

This prospective analysis from the PREFORM (PREnatal FOlic acid exposuRe on DNA Methylation in the newborn infant) study investigated 1) vitamin B-12 status in a cohort of Canadian pregnant women and their newborns, 2) the association of maternal dietary vitamin B-12 intake with maternal and cord blood concentrations of vitamin B-12 and its biomarkers, and 3) the association of fetal genetic polymorphisms with cord blood concentrations of vitamin B-12 and its biomarkers.

Methods:

In pregnant Canadian women (n = 368; mean ± SD age: 32 ± 5 y), vitamin B-12 intakes were assessed in early (0-16 wk) and mid- to late (23-37 wk) pregnancy. Serum vitamin B-12 and plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) and methylmalonic acid (MMA) in maternal blood at 12-16 wk of pregnancy and at delivery (28-42 wk) and in cord blood were measured and compared by using regression analyses. The associations of 28 fetal genetic variants in vitamin B-12 metabolism and cord blood vitamin B-12, tHcy, and MMA concentrations were assessed by using regression analysis, with adjustment for multiple testing.

Results:

A total of 17% and 38% of women had deficient and 35% and 43% had marginal serum vitamin B-12 concentrations at 12-16 wk of pregnancy and at delivery, respectively. Only 1.9-5.3% had elevated MMA (>271 nmol/L), and no women had elevated tHcy (>13 μmol/L). Maternal dietary vitamin B-12 intake during pregnancy was either weakly associated or not associated with maternal and cord blood vitamin B-12 (r2 = 0.17-0.24, P < 0.0008), tHcy (P = NS) and MMA (r2 = 0.05-0.11, P < 0.001). Fetal genetic polymorphisms were not associated with cord blood concentrations of vitamin B-12 and its biomarkers.

Conclusions:

Deficient and marginal serum vitamin B-12 concentrations are prevalent in Canadian pregnant women with the use of traditional cutoffs, despite supplement use. Given the growing interest among women to adhere to a vegetarian diet that may be lower in vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-12's importance in pregnancy, the functional ramifications of these observations need to be elucidated. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT02244684. J Nutr 2016;146:1035-42.

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