Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in vegetarian and economically deprived populations of the world. India provides a striking example. Unlike in the Western populations, this is not due to defects in the intrinsic factor mediated gastrointestinal absorption but due to smaller intake of the vitamin in the diet. ~10-12% of the deficiency is contributed by genetic factors which are not very different to those in the western populations. In addition, lower maternal transfer to the baby, prolonged breast feeding, lower milk intake in childhood, rapid childhood and adolescent growth, family environment (a surrogate for dietary practices and other lifestyle), lower leucocyte count (a surrogate for hygiene and infections) contribute to B12 deficiency.
Chittaranjan Yajnik approaches in his presentation immediate solutions to the problem of vitamin B12 deficiency, including supplements and food fortification, but also highlights that novel solutions are awaited to tackle the multifactorial and complex aetiology.