The frequently low cobalamin levels in dementia usually signify treatable metabolic, neurologic and electrophysiologic abnormalities

R. Carmel, P. S. Gott, C. H. Waters, K. Cairo, Ralph Green, W. Bondareff, C. M. DeGiorgio, J. L. Cummings, D. W. Jacobsen, G. Buckwalter, V. W. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Cobalamin levels are frequently low in patients with dementia, but it is unclear if they represent definable deficiency and what the mechanisms are. Therefore, patients being evaluated for dementia who had low cobalamin levels but no obvious evidence of deficiency were studied hematologically, neurologically and with metabolic tests and were re-evaluated after cobalamin treatment. Abnormalities suggestive of or diagnostic for deficiency were documented in most of the 16 demented and nondemented patients. Metabolic results: 50% of patients tested had abnormal deoxyuridine suppression and 44% had increased serum methylmalonic acid and/or homocysteine levels; these test results correlated with each other. Neurologic results: 73% of patients had clinical abnormalities, primarily mild neuropathies, not attributable to other causes, 75% had electroencephalographic abnormalities, 77% had abnormal visual evoked potentials and 33% had abnormal somatosensory potentials. Metabolic and neurologic dysfunction were present together or absent together in all but 2 cases. Cobalamin therapy improved 50-100% of the various types of abnormalities, although it did not improve cognitive function in the 13 demented patients. Food-cobalamin malabsorption was found in 60% of the patients. Despite the absence of megaloblastic anemia and rarity of traditional malabsorption of free cobalamin, low cobalamin levels in demented patients frequently represent mild cobalamin deficiency and are often associated with food-cobalamin malabsorption. Perhaps most importantly, this is accompanied not only by metabolic changes but by evidence of mild neurologic dysfunction. Their frequent reversibility by cobalamin confirms that these defects indeed arise from cobalamin deficiency. Although the long-standing dementia does not improve, treating such patients with cobalamin has other concrete benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-253
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Haematology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Acid
  • Cabalamin deficiency methylmalonic
  • Dementia malabsorption
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Evoked potentials
  • Homocysteine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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