Anemia and deficiencies of folate and vitamin B-6 are common and vary with season in Chinese women of childbearing age

J Nutr. 2000 Nov;130(11):2703-10. doi: 10.1093/jn/130.11.2703.


Little is known about the micronutrient status of Chinese women of childbearing age. We assessed nonfasting plasma concentrations of folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-6 (as pyridoxal-5'-phosphate), hemoglobin (Hb), ferritin and transferrin receptor (TfR) in 563 nonpregnant textile workers aged 21-34 y from Anqing, China. All women had obtained permission to become pregnant and were participating in a prospective study of pregnancy outcomes. Mean (SD) plasma concentrations were 9.7 (4.1) nmol/L folic acid, 367 (128) pmol/L vitamin B-12, 40.2 (15.8) nmol/L vitamin B-6, 108 (12. 9) g/L Hb, 42.6 (34.2) microgram/L ferritin and 5.2 (2.7) mg/L TfR. Twenty-three percent of women had biochemical evidence of folic acid deficiency, 26% were deficient in vitamin B-6 and 10% had low vitamin B-12. Overall, 44% of women were deficient in at least one B vitamin. Although anemia (Hb < 120 g/L) was detected in 80% of women, only 17% had depleted iron stores (ferritin < 12 microgram/L); 11% had elevated TfR concentrations. Distinct seasonal trends were observed in the prevalence of moderate anemia (Hb < 100 g/L) and deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin B-6, with significantly lower concentrations of folate and Hb occurring in summer and lower concentrations of vitamin B-6 occurring in winter and spring than in other seasons. We conclude that deficiencies of folic acid, vitamin B-6 and iron were relatively common in this sample of Chinese women of childbearing age and were contributing to the high prevalence of anemia. Without appropriate supplementation, these deficiencies could jeopardize the women's health and increase their risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anemia / blood
  • Anemia / epidemiology*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / blood
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Hemoglobins
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Seasons
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Vitamin B 6 Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin B 6 Deficiency / epidemiology*


  • Hemoglobins
  • Ferritins