Serum vitamin B12 not reflecting vitamin B12 status in patients with type 2 diabetes

Biochimie. 2013 May;95(5):1056-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2012.10.028. Epub 2012 Nov 17.


Contradictory results for concentrations of vitamin B12, holotranscobalamin (holoTC), and methylmalonic acid (MMA) have been reported. We tested the hypothesis that the extracellular vitamin B12 markers are not reflecting the intracellular vitamin B12-dependent biochemical reactions in individuals with type 2 diabetes. The study included 92 patients with diabetes and 72 controls with similar age and sex distribution. We measured vitamin B12 markers [MMA, total serum vitamin B12, holoTC, total homocysteine (tHcy)], red blood cell (RBC)-B12, and the plasma concentrations of the methylation markers [S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) and S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH)]. In comparison to controls, diabetic patients showed significantly higher concentrations of plasma SAH (median 15.1 vs. 11.8 nmol/L; p < 0.001) and lower SAM/SAH ratio (9.1 vs. 8.2; p = 0.006). Concentrations of total vitamin B12 and holoTC did not differ significantly between the groups, but plasma MMA concentrations were significantly higher in diabetics (250 vs. 206 nmol/L). However, RBC-B12 was lower in diabetics compared to controls (median 230 vs. 260 pmol/L; p = 0.001). The inverse correlation between MMA and RBC-B12 was stronger in the controls compared to that in the patients (correlation coefficient in controls R = -0.446, p = 0.001; in patients R = -0.289, p = 0.022). Metformin treatment was associated with a lower total serum vitamin B12, but a comparable RBC-B12 and a slightly lower MMA and better methylation index. In conclusion, patients with type 2 diabetes showed normal extracellular vitamin B12, but disturbed intracellular B12-dependent biochemical reactions. Metformin treatment was associated with low serum vitamin B12 and improved intracellular vitamin B12 metabolism despite low serum vitamin B12.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood*
  • Vitamin B 12 / metabolism
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / blood*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / metabolism


  • Vitamin B 12