Associations of food-cobalamin malabsorption with ethnic origin, age, Helicobacter pylori infection, and serum markers of gastritis

Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Jan;96(1):63-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2001.03453.x.


Objectives: Food-cobalamin malabsorption is common in patients with low cobalamin levels. However, characterization of affected subjects has been limited. The aim of this study was to analyze demographic and gastric data in a large study population.

Methods: Data were collected prospectively in 202 subjects (43 volunteers and 159 patients) who underwent the egg yolk-cobalamin absorption test (EYCAT). H. pylori status was determined in 167 of the subjects, serum gastrin and antiparietal cell antibody in 158 and pepsinogen (PG) I and PG II levels in 133.

Results: Latin American and black patients had lower EYCAT results than did white or Asian-American ones (p = 0.0001) and had severe food-cobalamin malabsorption (EYCAT < 1%) more often (p = 0.0001). Age correlated inversely with EYCAT results (p = 0.02). H. pylori infection was associated with food-cobalamin malabsorption (p = 0.0001), especially with severe malabsorption where 29/37 subjects (78.4%) were infected. Malabsorption was also associated with higher gastrin levels (p = 0.0001) and lower PG I levels (p = 0.01) and PG I:PG II ratios (p = 0.0001). Multivariate analysis showed that ethnic origin, gastrin levels, H. pylori infection and, to a lesser extent, age were independently associated with the EYCAT results.

Conclusions: Latin American and black patients have food-cobalamin malabsorption more often than do white and Asian-American patients. This association is independent of the malabsorption's association with H. pylori infection, markers of gastritis, such as gastrin, and older age. The patterns of gastric tests suggest that malabsorption may be due to diverse mechanisms, not just atrophic gastritis. The possible role of H. pylori infection in many cases of severe food-cobalamin malabsorption also suggests avenues of treatment and prevention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Gastritis / diagnosis
  • Gastritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastritis / microbiology
  • Helicobacter Infections / diagnosis
  • Helicobacter Infections / epidemiology*
  • Helicobacter pylori / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / complications
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Vitamin B 12