Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Folate and vitamin B12 status of women of reproductive age living in Hanoi City and Hai Duong Province of Vietnam

Vu Thi Thu Hiena1, Nguyen Thi Lama1, Nguyen Cong Khana1, Nguyen Tri Dunga1, C Murray Skeaffa2, Bernard J Venna2, Trevor Walmsleya3, Peter M Georgea3, Judy McLeana4, Matthew R Browna4 and Timothy J Greena2a4 c1

a1 National Institute of Nutrition, Hanoi, Vietnam

a2 World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

a3 Canterbury Health Labs, Christchurch, New Zealand

a4 Food, Nutrition, and Health, University of British Columbia, 2205 East Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6 T 1Z4


Objectives To assess the folate and vitamin B12 status of a group of Vietnamese women of reproductive age and to estimate the rate of neural tube defects (NTD) based on red blood cell (RBC) folate concentrations.

Design and subjects A representative sample of non-pregnant women (15–49 years) living in Hanoi City (n 244) and Hai Duong Province (n 245).

Measures RBC folate, plasma vitamin B12 and plasma holo-transcobalamin (holoTC), a sensitive indicator of vitamin B12 status.

Results Mean (95 % CI) concentrations of RBC folate, plasma B12 and plasma holoTC were 856 (837, 876) nmol/l, 494 (475, 513) pmol/l and 78 (74, 82) pmol/l, respectively. Only 3 % and 4 % of women had plasma B12 and holoTC concentrations indicative of deficiency. No woman had an RBC folate concentration indicative of deficiency (<317 nmol/l). Only 47 % of women had an RBC folate concentration ≥905 nmol/l. Accordingly, we predict the NTD rate in these regions of Vietnam to be 14·7 (14·2, 15·1) per 10 000 pregnancies.

Conclusion There was no evidence of folate and vitamin B12 deficiency among this population of Vietnamese women. However, suboptimal folate status may be placing three out of five women at increased risk of NTD. Reductions in NTD rates are still possible and women would benefit from additional folic acid during the periconceptional period from either supplements or fortified foods.

(Received March 19 2008)

(Accepted July 06 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email