Objective: Data about vitamin B(12) (B(12)) deficiency in the general population are scarce. The present study was performed to determine the prevalence of B(12) deficiency in the general population of the Principality of Liechtenstein, as well as to identify sub-populations potentially at high risk.
Design: Retrospective study.
Setting: Ambulatory setting, population of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Subjects: Seven thousand four hundred and twenty-four patients seeking medical attention whose serum samples were referred for routine work-up in an ambulatory setting were consecutively enrolled. Serum total B(12) was determined in all patients in this cohort. In addition, for a subgroup of 1328 patients, serum holotranscobalamin was also measured. Prevalence of B(12) deficiency was calculated. Further, multivariate logistical regression models were applied to identify covariates independently associated with B(12) deficiency and depletion.
Results: Nearly 8% of the general population was suffering from either B(12) depletion or deficiency. The ratio between B(12) depletion and deficiency was 2:1 for all age ranges. Pathological changes were detected predominantly in older people. Female gender was a significant predictor of B(12) depletion. In the cohort, nearly 40% exhibited either depletion or deficiency of B(12).
Conclusions: B(12) depletion and deficiency are common in Liechtenstein, a Central European country. The measurement of biochemical markers represents a cost-efficient and valid assessment of the B(12) state. When a deficiency of B(12) is diagnosed at an early stage, many cases can be treated or prevented, with beneficial effects on individual outcomes and subsequent potential reductions in health-care costs.