VITAMIN B12 STUDY: A focus on South Asian women and pregnancy

Published: February 7, 2013

AMNEET AULAKH
VANCOUVER DESI

What is the role of Vitamin B12 in the body?

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for good health. It helps all your cells work normally and it is especially important for brain development (creating and preserving a healthy nervous system) and for building healthy red blood cells. Good sources of vitamin B12 in the diet include animal products such as beef, chicken, seafood, and to a lesser extent milk and eggs. Vitamin B12 fortified products also exist on the market such as soya milk and cereal. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 2.4 micrograms/day.

People who have lower than normal amounts of vitamin B12 in their body may experience memory problems, loss of balance or tingling in fingers and/or toes; or it may lead to a type of anemia that can make you feel tired or have poor energy levels. Low levels of vitamin B12 can also increase chances of bone fractures and fragility especially as our body ages.

Who can develop Vitamin B12 deficiency?

There are many causes of low vitamin B12 levels. Some of them are:

  • Low consumption of animal sourced foods
There are many causes of low vitamin B12 levels. Some of them include:
  • Conditions such as Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease
that may prevent absorption of vitamin B12
  • An autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia
  • Use of certain medications
  • Infections such as Giardia lamblia and Helicobacter pylori (H.Pylori)
  • Age; the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food sources decreases with older age. And infants rely on their mother’s B12 stores by breastfeeding until their gut is fully developed

What has been observed about Vitamin B12 in South Asian populations?

High rates of deficiency have been observed in South Asian populations, including 
South Asians living in Canada, but we do not know how this effects South Asian women, especially young women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 is especially important for the health of women and children. 
Observational studies have shown a correlation between low maternal vitamin B12 status during pregnancy and increased risk for neural tube defects, cognitive impairment in children, insulin resistance, central obesity, and low birth weight.

Some studies done in Pune, India, showed that mothers with high folate status and low B12 status, had children with the greatest risk for insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a state that happens before someone develops diabetes, where the body does not effectively lower blood sugar levels with the insulin that is produced from the pancreas.

Call for volunteers for a study conducted by UBC  to find out if South Asian women living in Metro Vancouver have low Vitamin B12 levels

Researchers in the Food Nutrition and Health department at UBC are inviting all eligible South Asian and European women to participate in a research study on vitamin B12 deficiency.

The objective of the study is to investigate the frequency and risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency for South Asian women living in Metro Vancouver. This information will contribute towards the evaluation of pre-natal nutrition and supplement recommendations for South Asian women and towards identification of risk factors that can be changed so that vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented. The aim of this study is to contribute towards the improved health of women and children in the South Asian community.

If you are a South Asian woman, aged 19-35, healthy and not pregnant. You are eligible to participate in this study.

  • Time commitment: one hour
  • Test: one fasting blood sample

A gift card will be given to thank you for your participation.

The study sites will be available in Surrey and South Vancouver where appointments can be made at the end of February and in March, 2013. There is also a South Asian student volunteer on the study team who can provide language support.

If you are interested in learning more or participating in this study, please inquire using the contact information below.

CONTACT DETAILS:

Primary Contact: Teo Quay, Graduate Student

Phone: 778-879-3318

Email: quayt@mail.ubc.ca

For Appointment Booking: Marta Jeruszka-Bielak, Research Assistant

Phone: 604-822-1250 (during business hours)

Email: mjbielak@mail.ubc.ca

Online: www.ubcb12study.tumblr.com

______________________________________________________

Amneet Aulakh works as a Clinical Pharmacist Specialist. She has an interest in health maintenance and nutrition. Her passion is to educate and inspire people, empowering them to enjoy optimum health. Follow her on Twitter: @mirrordoor. She can be reached by email at amneet.aulakh@yahoo.com

 

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