High Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Long-Term Care Facilities

Researchers studying eight long-term care facilities found that B-12 deficiency rates were high.

HealthDay News – Vitamin B12 deficiency is common among seniors in long-term care, according to a study published online Jan. 19 in the Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.1

The study included residents of eight long-term care facilities in the province of Ontario, Canada.

The researchers found that the prevalence of B12 deficiency at admission was 13.8%. One year post-admission the incidence was found to be 4%. Improved vitamin B12 status was significantly associated with supplementation use prior to admission.

The findings are the first step in getting an accurate estimate of B12-deficiency rates among seniors in long-term care facilities, according to the researchers. “The negative effects of a B12 deficiency for an at-risk community such as elderly adults in long-term care should be a vital concern for policy makers, staff and leadership at long-term care homes, as well as provincial and federal health departments, and warrants consideration of mandatory B12 screening at admission,” study author Heather Keller, Ph.D., research chair of nutrition and aging at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said in a journal news release.

Summary and Clinical Applicability

Vitamin B12 deficiency is prevalent in older adults admitted into long-term care facilities. This study has shown that vitamin B12 supplementation is effective in raising vitamin B12 levels, in the setting of long-term care facilities. Physicians with elderly patients should be aware of the signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency, like the presence of neurological deficits and macrocytic anemia. Healthcare providers should also recognize sub-populations that are at an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency: the elderly, alcoholics, patients adhering to strict vegan diets,and those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

More prospective studies need to be done to analyze the potential health benefits that result from correcting B12 levels so that future screening guidelines can be developed. 


1. Pfisterer KJ, Sharratt MT, Heckman GG, et al.  Vitamin B12 status in older adults living in Ontario long-term care homes: prevalence and incidence of deficiency with supplementation as a protective factor. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 Jan 19:1-4. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Stabler SP. Clinical practice. Vitamin B12 deficiency. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:149.