OUP user menu

An update on cobalamin deficiency in adults

N. Dali-Youcef, E. Andrès
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcn138 17-28 First published online: 5 November 2008


Cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency is particularly common in the elderly (>65 years of age), but is often unrecognized because of its subtle clinical manifestations; although they can be potentially serious, particularly from a neuropsychiatric and hematological perspective. In the general population, the main causes of cobalamin deficiency are pernicious anemia and food-cobalamin malabsorption. Food-cobalamin malabsorption syndrome, which has only recently been identified, is a disorder characterized by the inability to release cobalamin from food or its binding proteins. This syndrome is usually caused by atrophic gastritis, related or unrelated to Helicobacter pylori infection, and long-term ingestion of antacids and biguanides. Besides these syndromes, mutations in genes encoding endocytic receptors involved in the ileal absorption and cellular uptake of cobalamin have been recently uncovered and explain, at least in part, the hereditary component of megaloblastic anemia. Management of cobalamin deficiency with cobalamin injections is currently well codified, but new routes of cobalamin administration (oral and nasal) are being studied, especially oral cobalamin therapy for food-cobalamin malabsorption.

View Full Text