Intakes of Vitamin B-12 from Dairy Food, Meat, and Fish and Shellfish Are Independently and Positively Associated with Vitamin B-12 Biomarker Status in Pregnant Dutch Women

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Background: The effect of vitamin B-12 from different animal foods on vitamin B-12 biomarker status has not previously been evaluated in pregnant women.

Objective: We examined the association of vitamin B-12 intake from dairy, meat, fish (including shellfish), and eggs with circulating concentrations of vitamin B-12 biomarkers and with the presence of vitamin B-12 deficiency in 1266 pregnant women participating in the KOALA Birth Cohort Study.

Methods: Blood samples were collected in weeks 34-36 of pregnancy, and vitamin B-12 intake from foods and supplements was estimated with a semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Total vitamin B-12, holotranscobalamin (holoTC), and methylmalonic acid (MMA) were determined in plasma. Vitamin B-12 deficiency was defined as holoTC <35 pmol/L and MMA > 0.45 mu mol/L. Associations were evaluated with linear and logistic regression analyses, adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: Significant dose-response relations were observed between vitamin B-12 intake from dairy, meat, and fish and plasma vitamin B-12, holoTC, and MMA [P-trend for (shell) fish with MMA = 0.002; P-trend for dairy, meat, and fish with all other markers <0.001]. The OR (95% CI) of vitamin B-12 deficiency in the third compared with the first tertile of dairy-derived vitamin B-12 was 0.13 (0.04, 0.49), and the ORs for vitamin B-12 from meat and fish were 0.33 (0.11, 0.97) and 0.25 (0.08, 0.82), respectively. Egg-derived vitamin B-12 was only associated with holoTC. Additional analyses showed that self-defined vegetarians and FFQ-defined lacto-ovo-vegetarians had lower median total dietary vitamin B-12 intake and considerably worse vitamin B-12 biomarker status than omnivores and pescatarians.

Conclusions: In pregnant Dutch women, higher intakes of vitamin B-12 from dairy, meat, and fish were positively associated with vitamin B-12 status, suggesting that dairy, meat, and fish are good sources of bioactive vitamin B-12 in pregnancy. Nevertheless, for (lacto-) vegetarians, vitamin B-12 supplementation is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-138
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • vitamin B-12 intake
  • pregnancy
  • plasma vitamin B-12
  • methylmalonic acid
  • holotranscobalamin
  • animal foods
  • vegetarian

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