Background: Low vitamin B12 concentration in South Asian Indians is common, but the exact prevalence is not known.
Aim: To investigate prevalence and associations of low vitamin B12 concentration and hyperhomocysteinemia in rural and urban Indian men living in and around Pune, Maharashtra.
Method: We studied 441 middle-aged men (149 rural, 142 slum and 150 urban middle-class residents, mean age 39 y). Data on lifestyle, socio-economic status, nutrition and medical history were obtained. Circulating concentrations of vitamin B12, folate, ferritin, total homocysteine (tHcy), and haematological indices, and cardiovascular risk variables were measured.
Results: Median plasma B12 concentration was low (110 pmol/L): Overall, 67% of men had low vitamin B12 concentration (<150 pmol/L) and 58% had hyperhomocysteinemia (>15 micromol/L). Of the urban middle class, 81% had low vitamin B12 concentration and 79% had hyperhomocysteinemia. Low vitamin B12 concentration contributed 28% to the risk of hyperhomocysteinemia (population attributable risk) while low red cell folate contributed 2%. Vegetarians had 4.4 times (95% CI 2.1, 9.4) higher risk of low vitamin B12 concentrations and 3.0 times (95% CI 1.4, 6.5) higher risk of hyperhomocysteinemia compared to those who ate non-vegetarian foods frequently. Urban middle-class residence was an additional independent risk factor of hyperhomocysteinemia (odds ratio 7.6 (95% CI 2.5, 22.6), compared to rural men). Low vitamin B12 concentration was related to lower blood haemoglobin concentration and higher mean corpuscular volume, but macrocytic anemia was rare.
Conclusion: Low vitamin B12 concentration and hyperhomocysteinemia are common in Indian men, particularly in vegetarians and urban middle class residents. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings in other parts of India.