Prevalence of vitamin B-12 insufficiency during pregnancy and its effect on offspring birth weight: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Nithya Sukumar, Snorri B Rafnsson, Ngianga-Bakwin Kandala, Raj Bhopal, Chittaranjan S Yajnik, Ponnusamy Saravanan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Vitamin B-12 and folate are micronutrients essential for normal embryogenesis. Vitamin B-12 insufficiency in pregnancy is high in certain parts of the world, such as India, and although this has been linked to low birth weight (LBW) in these populations, the relation between vitamin B-12 and birth weight (BW) elsewhere is unknown.

OBJECTIVES: We performed a systematic review to assess1) the worldwide prevalence of vitamin B-12 insufficiency in pregnancy and2) its association with BW.

DESIGN: A search of 5 electronic databases was performed to identify eligible articles. Random-effects meta-analysis was conducted according to geographic regions and pregnancy trimesters for the prevalence subreview and by categorical measures of BW.

RESULTS: A total of 57 and 23 articles were included for the prevalence and BW subreviews, respectively. The pooled estimates of vitamin B-12 insufficiency were 21%, 19%, and 29% in the first, second, and third trimesters, respectively, with high rates for the Indian subcontinent and the Eastern Mediterranean. The large heterogeneity between studies was partially addressed by creating a standardized score for each study (mean vitamin B-12 insufficiency ÷ cutoff value), which internally corrected for geographic region, trimester, and assay type. Twelve of the 13 longitudinal studies included showed a decrease in mean or median vitamin B-12 across trimesters. Pooled analysis showed nonsignificantly lower maternal vitamin B-12 concentrations in LBW than in normal-BW infants and higher odds of LBW with lower vitamin B-12 values (adjusted OR: 1.70; 95% CI: 1.16, 2.50), but studies from India largely contributed to the latter.

CONCLUSIONS: Our review indicates that vitamin B-12 insufficiency during pregnancy is common even in nonvegetarian populations and that concentrations of vitamin B-12 decrease from the first to the third trimester. There is no consistent association between vitamin B-12 insufficiency and LBW. However, given the long-term risks of LBW, this observation warrants further cohort studies and randomized controlled trials.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN)
Early online date13 Apr 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Apr 2016


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