Low vitamin B12 status is common in older people; however, its public health significance in terms of neurological manifestations remains unclear. The present systematic review evaluated the association of vitamin B12 status with neurological function and clinically relevant neurological outcomes in adults aged 50+ years. A systematic search of nine bibliographic databases (up to March 2013) identified twelve published articles describing two longitudinal and ten cross-sectional analyses. The included study populations ranged in size (n 28-2287) and mean/median age (range 65-81 years). Studies reported various neurological outcomes: nerve function; clinically measured signs and symptoms of nerve function; self-reported neurological symptoms. Studies were assessed for risk of bias, and results were synthesised qualitatively. Among the general population groups of older people, one longitudinal study reported no association, and four of seven cross-sectional studies reported limited evidence of an association of vitamin B12 status with some, but not all, neurological outcomes. Among groups with clinical and/or biochemical evidence of low vitamin B12 status, one longitudinal study reported an association of vitamin B12 status with some, but not all, neurological outcomes and three cross-sectional analyses reported no association. Overall, there is limited evidence from observational studies to suggest an association of vitamin B12 status with neurological function in older people. The heterogeneity and quality of the evidence base preclude more definitive conclusions, and further high-quality research is needed to better inform understanding of public health significance in terms of neurological function of vitamin B12 status in older people.
Keywords: Nerve conduction; Neurological function; Older people; Vitamin B12.