Vitamin B12 deficiency in infants leads to poor motor development and anaemia, according to a study from Burkina Faso conducted by the University of Copenhagen and Médecins Sans Frontières. B12 deficiency is an enormous, yet overlooked problem, and the food relief we currently supply is not helping. According to the researchers, the problem calls for new solutions.
In Denmark, cases of poor psychomotor development are regularly seen in young children raised on vegan diets, though such outcomes are preventable with daily B12 supplements. But for children in low-income countries, the chances of ever meeting their vitamin B12 requirements are far worse. This is reflected in widespread B12 deficiency among young children in Burkina Faso, according to a study from the University of Copenhagen conducted in collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctor’s Without Borders). The results have been published in the journal Plos Medicine.
A lack of vitamin B12 doesn’t just potentially lead to anaemia, it can damage the nervous system. And for young children, B12 is crucial for brain development.
«Among the many children who participated in our study, we found a strong correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency and poor motor development and anaemia,» says Henrik Friis, first author of the study and a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports.
For many years, there has been a focus on vitamin A, zinc and iron deficiencies when it comes to malnutrition across the globe, whereas there is a paucity of research on B12 deficiency.
«B12 deficiency is one of the most overlooked problems out there when it comes to malnutrition. And unfortunately, we can see that the food relief we provide today is not up to the task,» says Henrik Friis, who has worked with nutrition and health in low-income countries for many years.
Over 1,000 children with acute malnutrition aged 6-23 months participated in the study. The children’s B12 levels were measured both before and after three months of daily food relief rations containing the recommended B12 content. When the study began, two-thirds of the children had either low or marginal levels of B12.
ScienceDaily/May 3, 2022