Low blood levels of vitamin B12 seen in type 2 diabetics receiving a sugar lowering drug called metformin can be offset by increasing the intake of calcium. Researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Bronx, New York monitored blood levels of total vitamin B12 and the bioavailable form of vitamin B12 in 21 patients with type 2 diabetes.
During treatment with metformin, patients "developed a marked reduction in blood levels of vitamin B12. They suspect that the effects of the drug metformin interfered with intestinal absorption of vitamin B12, leading to the reduced serum levels. Intestinal absorption of B12 depends on calcium.
After three months, all metformin-treated patients began taking an oral calcium carbonate supplement. This partially reversed the effect of metformin, increasing bioavailable vitamin B12 levels by an average of 53% during month three to month four. However, supplementation did not significantly increase total blood vitamin B12 levels during this period.
The researchers recommend that diabetic patients using metformin should be encouraged to increase their intake of calcium as well as be closely monitored for vitamin B12 deficiency
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