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Abstract

Background/objectives Low vitamin B12 and folate levels in community-dwelling older people are usually corrected with supplements. However, the effect of this supplementation on haematological parameters in older persons is not known. Therefore, we executed a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials (RCTs). Subjects/methods We performed a systematic search in PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane and CENTRAL for RCTs published between January 1950 and April 2016, where community-dwelling elderly (60+ years) who were treated with vitamin B12 or folic acid or placebo. The presence of anaemia was not required. We analysed the data on haematological parameters with a two-stage IPD meta-analysis. Results We found 494 full papers covering 14 studies. Data were shared by the authors of four RCTs comparing vitamin B12 with placebo (n = 343) and of three RCTs comparing folic acid with placebo (n = 929). We found no effect of vitamin B12 supplementation on haemoglobin (change 0.00 g/dL, 95% CI: −0.19;0.18), and no effect of folic acid supplementation (change −0.09 g/dL, 95% CI: −0.19;0.01). The effects of supplementation on other haematological parameters were similar. The effects did not differ by sex or by age group. Also, no effect was found in a subgroup of patients with anaemia and a subgroup of patients who were treated >4 weeks. Conclusions Evidence on the effects of supplementation of low concentrations of vitamin B12 and folate on haematological parameters in community-dwelling older people is inconclusive. Further research is needed before firm recommendations can be made concerning the supplementation of vitamin B12 and folate.

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