British Journal of Nutrition

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Relationships between micronutrient intake and biochemical indicators of nutrient adequacy in a ‘free-living’ elderly UK population

Angela L. Baileya1, Susan Maiseya2, Susan Southona1, Anthony J. A. Wrighta1, Paul M. Finglasa1 and Robert A. Fulchera2

a1 Institute of Food Research, Nonvich Research Park, Colney, Nonvich NR4 7UA

a2 Department of Medicine for the Elderly, West Nonvich Hospital, Nonvich NR2 3TU


Nutritional assessments are frequently based on amounts of nutrients consumed. In the present paper the usefulness of nutrient intake data for assessing nutrient adequacy is examined in an elderly British population. Subjects were ‘free-living’ elderly aged 68-90 years (sixty men, eighty-five women) in Norwich. Forty-two of forty-nine surviving males and sixty-seven of seventy-nine surviving females were reassessed after 2 years. With few exceptions, estimated micronutrient intake was not statistically predictive of biochemical measures of nutrient adequacy. Initial biochemical measures of nutritional adequacy were compared with those found 2 years later in an attempt to assess whether initial biochemical assessment was predictive of the ‘longer term’situation. Biochemical measurements at the start of the study were correlated to the same measurements made 2 years later for: serum ferritin, haemoglobin and erythrocyte count, whole-blood Se-glutathione peroxidase (EC; males only), plasma Cu, alkaline phosphatase (EC, ascorbic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate), folate and vitamin B12, total erythrocyte thiamin (males only), riboflavin (erythrocyte glutathione reductase (EC activation coefficient): but not for: erythrocyte Cu-superoxide dismutase (EC or plasma Zn. Either only small changes, or no changes, in mean values were seen over the 2 years for most of the biochemical measures. One exception was a large increase in plasma folate. The only important ‘negative’ features seen at 2-year follow up were a large fall in serum ferritin concentration and a large increase in the activity of two antioxidant defence enzymes, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase. As judged by currently accepted biochemical deficiency threshold values, asmall proportion of subjects were possibly at risk of Fe (3% men; 1% women), folate (7%, 3%), thiamin (12%;3%) and vitamin C (15%; 17%) deficiency. Many more appeared to be at risk of vitamin B6 (42%; 47%) and riboflavin (77%; 79%) deficiency. It was concluded that the requirements of the elderly for vitamins B1, B2 and C, and the biochemical deficiency threshold vahes used to indicate vitamin B6 deficiency, need review

(Received July 06 1995)

(Revised May 28 1996)

(Accepted July 03 1996)