Objective: To determine the serum vitamin B(12) status of older New Zealanders and to assess the impact of atrophic gastritis on vitamin B(12) status.
Design: A cross-sectional nationally representative population-based survey.
Method: Serum vitamin B(12) concentrations were used to assess vitamin B(12) status. The presence and severity of atrophic gastritis was classified using serum pepsinogen I and II.
Subjects: A total of 466 noninstitutionalized urban and rural dwelling New Zealanders aged 65 y or older who participated in the 1997 National Nutrition Survey.
Results: The prevalence of deficient (<148 pmol/l) and marginal (148-221 pmol/l) serum vitamin B(12) concentrations was 12 and 28%, respectively. The prevalence of atrophic gastritis was 6.7% (severe 3.1%, mild-moderate 3.6%). While atrophic gastritis increased the relative risk (RR, 95% CI) of having a deficient or marginal serum vitamin B(12) concentration by 21-fold (6-67) and five-fold (1-17), respectively, those who had atrophic gastritis made up only 33 and 6% of the participants with deficient or marginal serum vitamin B(12) concentrations. An intake of vitamin B(12) from food that exceeded the recommended dietary allowance (2.4 mug/day) did not protect against deficient (RR 0.5; 95% CI: 0.2, 1.2) or marginal (RR 0.9; 95% CI: 0.5, 1.7) serum vitamin B(12) status. Vitamin B(12) supplement users had a reduced risk of having deficient and marginal vitamin B(12) status (RR 0.3; 95% CI: 0.1, 0.8).
Conclusions: There is a relatively high prevalence of deficient and marginal serum vitamin B(12) concentrations among older New Zealanders. However, the prevalence of atrophic gastritis was low in the New Zealand elderly compared with other surveys. Although atrophic gastritis was a risk factor for low vitamin B(12) status, it did not fully explain the prevalence of low serum vitamin B(12).