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Vitamin B6 deficiency and diseases in elderly people – a study in nursing homes

Ida K Kjeldby12, Gunvor S Fosnes23, Solveig C Ligaarden23 and Per G Farup12*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Research, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Brumunddal, Norway

2 Unit for Applied Clinical Research, Department of Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

3 Department of Medicine, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Gjøvik, Norway

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Citation and License

BMC Geriatrics 2013, 13:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-13-13

Published: 8 February 2013



Vitamin deficiency is a cause of health related problems in elderly people. The aims were to study associations between vitamin B6 (B6) and diseases (primarily functional gastrointestinal disorders) in elderly people in nursing homes, the prevalence of B6 deficiency and factors associated with B6 deficiency.


This cross-sectional study included residents in nursing homes. Demographics, nutritional status (Mini Nutritional Assessment, MNA® ), physical activity, activity of daily living (Katz Index), dietary habits, use of drugs, and psychiatric and somatic diseases were recorded. A blood sample was collected for haematological and biochemical screening, including B6 (p-PLP); p-PLP values < 20 nmol/l indicates B6 deficiency. The results are given as mean (SD).


Sixty-one residents (men/women: 22/39) with an age of 85.3 (6.8) years and BMI 25.7 (4.5) kg/m2 were included. Malnutrition and risk of malnutrition were present in 11.5% and 61% respectively. Dietary intake of B6 (mg/day) in men and women were 1.60 (0.30) and 1.18 (0.31) (recommended 1.6 and 1.2 respectively), and 14 (23%) used B6 supplements. Median p-PLP was 20.7 (range <4.0-175.8), 30 subjects (49%) had B6 deficiency. B6 deficiency was associated with old age, low s-alanine aminotransferase and s-albumin, elevated s-homocysteine and inactivity (p-values 0.01-0.03). There were no clinically significant associations between B6 deficiency and somatic or psychiatric disorders, and B6 deficiency was not observed in subjects given B6 supplements.


Half of the residents had vitamin B6 deficiency. Vitamin supplement was effective prophylaxis for deficiency and should be recommended to all elderly people in nursing homes.