Cobalamin deficiency in the elderly: aetiology and management: a study of 125 patients in a geriatric hospital

J Nutr Health Aging. 2015 Feb;19(2):234-9. doi: 10.1007/s12603-014-0525-1.


Introduction: Cobalamin deficiency is frequent in elderly patients and the main aetiologies are food-cobalamin malabsorption and pernicious anaemia. The aim of our retrospective study was to identify the causes and methods of management of cobalamin deficiency at Nice geriatric university hospital.

Methods: A retrospective monocentric study was conducted over 14 months at Nice geriatric hospital, which included patients with cobalamin deficiency having received supplementation. The clinical and paraclinical data, etiological diagnosis, treatment and follow-up modalities were analyzed retrospectively.

Results: We studied 125 elderly patients whose median age was 85.5 ± 7 years. The etiological diagnosis was food-cobalamin malabsorption for 72 patients (57.6 %), nutritional cobalamin deficiency for 15 patients (12 %), pernicious anaemia for 12 patients (9.6 %) and there was no etiological diagnosis for 26 patients (20.8 %). Concerning cobalamin therapy, 111 patients (88.8 %) received oral therapy and 14 (11.2 %) intramuscular therapy. Vitamin B12 levels increased significantly after supplementation (p<0.001) but cobalamin administration varied according to the diagnoses (p<0.001) and was less effective in patients with dementia (p=0.04) and food-cobalamin malabsorption.

Conclusion: Our study showed the importance of food-cobalamin malabsorption in etiological diagnosis in accordance with the literature, but also the non-negligible share of nutritional cobalamin deficiency. Mainly oral cobalamin supplementation was used in our study with a significant increase in vitamin B12 levels. An oral cobalamin regimen is proposed for elderly patients with cobalamin deficiency but with no severe neurological signs.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption, Physiological
  • Administration, Oral
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anemia, Pernicious / complications
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Food
  • France
  • Geriatrics*
  • Hospitals, University*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B 12 / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / etiology*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / therapy*


  • Vitamin B 12