Proton Pump Inhibitors, H2-Receptor Antagonists, Metformin, and Vitamin B-12 Deficiency: Clinical Implications

Adv Nutr. 2018 Jul 1;9(4):511S-518S. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmy023.


There is clear evidence that proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs), and metformin can reduce serum vitamin B-12 concentrations by inhibiting the absorption of the vitamin. However, it is unclear if the effects of these drugs on serum vitamin B-12 are associated with increased risk of biochemical or functional deficiency (as is indicated by elevated blood concentrations of homocysteine and methylmalonic acid) or clinical deficiency (including megaloblastic anemia and neurologic disorders such as peripheral neuropathy and cognitive dysfunction). This review provides an overview of vitamin B-12 absorption and biochemistry and the mechanisms by which PPIs, H2RAs, and metformin affect these functions. It also summarizes the literature relating the use of these drugs to the risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency. Also discussed is that strategies for assessing vitamin B-12 status and diagnosing vitamin B-12 deficiency have evolved in recent years beyond solely measuring serum total vitamin B-12. Multiple analyte testing, a strategy in which ≥2 of 4 biomarkers of vitamin B-12 status-serum total vitamin B-12, holotranscobalamin, homocysteine, and methylmalonic acid-are measured, increases sensitivity and specificity for diagnosing vitamin B-12 deficiency. It is concluded that randomized controlled trials are now needed that use the strategy of multiple analyte testing to determine if PPIs, H2RAs, and metformin do indeed increase the risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency. Until these studies are conducted, a reasonable recommendation for physicians and their patients who are taking these drugs is to monitor vitamin B-12 status and to provide vitamin B-12 supplements if altered blood biomarkers or clinical signs consistent with low or deficient vitamin B-12 status develop.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Histamine H2 Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Humans
  • Metformin / adverse effects*
  • Methylmalonic Acid / blood
  • Nutritional Status
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcobalamins / analysis
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 / pharmacokinetics
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / chemically induced*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / diagnosis


  • Histamine H2 Antagonists
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Transcobalamins
  • Homocysteine
  • Methylmalonic Acid
  • Metformin
  • Vitamin B 12