Relationship between vitamin B12 and sensory and motor peripheral nerve function in older adults

Kira Leishear, Robert M. Boudreau, Stephanie A. Studenski, Luigi Ferrucci, Caterina Rosano, Nathalie De Rekeneire, Denise K. Houston, Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Ann V. Schwartz, Aaron I. Vinik, Eva Hogervorst, Kristine Yaffe, Tamara B. Harris, Anne B. Newman, Elsa S. Strotmeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To examine whether deficient B12 status or low serum B12 levels are associated with worse sensory and motor peripheral nerve function in older adults. DESIGN: Cross-sectional. SETTING: Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. PARTICIPANTS: Two thousand two hundred and eightyseven adults aged 72 to 83 (mean 76.5 ±2.9; 51.4% female; 38.3% black). MEASUREMENTS: Low serum B12 was defined as serum B12 less than 260 pmol/L, and deficient B12 status was defined as B12 less than 260 pmol/L, methylmalonicacid (MMA) greater than 271 nmol/L, and MMA greater than 2-methylcitrate. Peripheral nerve function was assessed according to peroneal nerve conduction amplitude and velocity (NCV) (motor),1.4 g/10 g monofilament detection, average vibration threshold detection,and peripheral neuropathy symptoms (numbness, aching or burning pain,or both) (sensory). RESULTS: B12-deficient status was found in 7.0% of participants, and an additional 10.1% had low serum B12 levels. B12 deficient status was associated with greater insensitivity to light (1.4 g) touch (odds ratio = 1.50,95% confidence interval = 1.06-2.13) and worse NCV (42.3 vs 43.5 m/s) (β = -1.16, P = .01) after multivariable adjustment for demographics, life style factors, and health conditions. Associations were consistent for the alternative definition using low serum B12 only. No significant associations were found for deficient B12 status or the alternative low serum B12 definition and vibration detection,nerve conduction amplitude,orperipheral neuropathy symptoms. CONCLUSION: Poor B12 (deficient B12 status and low serum B12) is associated with worse sensory and motor peripheral nerve function. Nerve function impairments may lead to physical function declines and disability in older adults, suggesting that prevention and treatment of low B12 levels may be important to evaluate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1063
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Deficient B12
  • Low B12
  • Motor nerve conduction
  • Older adults
  • Sensory peripheral nerve function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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