The value of the erythrocyte indices as a screening procedure in predicting nutritional deficiencies

Clin Lab Haematol. 1990;12(3):247-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2257.1990.tb00034.x.


The results of a large number of nutritional screen requests (n = 871) were compared with corresponding values of erythrocyte indices considered predictive of nutritional deficiencies to determine if such indices could be used in a prospective screening procedure to restrict the number of serum vitamin B12, folate, and ferritin assays. Low mean cell haemoglobins (MCH less than 27 pg) were found to be superior to low mean cell volumes (MCV less than 77 fl), in predicting low serum ferritin values. The occurrence of deficient ferritin values was 90% when the MCH was very low (MCH less than 23 pg). Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency could not be predicted from the MCV. A normal MCV was found in more than 55% of vitamin B12 deficient samples and some 30% of serum B12 deficients (less than 150 micrograms/l) showed no evidence of anaemia (Hb greater than 12 gm/dl) or macrocytosis (MCV less than 100 fl). It would not seem appropriate to use erythrocyte indices alone as a method of selecting samples for further investigation of folate or vitamin B12 status.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Deficiency Diseases / blood
  • Deficiency Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Erythrocyte Indices*
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood


  • Ferritins
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12