Effectiveness of a fortified drink in improving B vitamin biomarkers in older adults: a controlled intervention trial

Maria Heffernan, Leanne C Doherty, Roberta Hack Mendes, Michelle Clarke, Stephanie Hodge, Michelle Clements, Liadhan McAnena, Mari Rivelsrud, Mary Ward, JJ Strain, Helene Mc Nulty, Lorraine Brennan

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Older adults are reported to have sub-optimal B vitamin status; targeted food-based solutions may help to address this. The objectives of the OptiAge food intervention study were to develop and investigate the effectiveness of a B vitamin-fortified drink in improving B vitamin biomarkers in older Irish adults with a primary outcome of change in the B vitamin biomarker status.
Methods: A double-blinded randomised controlled trial was performed in parallel at University College Dublin and Ulster University. Participants aged > 50 years were recruited following screening for exclusion criteria (i.e. taking medications known to interfere with B vitamin metabolism, supplements containing B vitamins, consuming > 4 portions of B vitamin-fortified foods per week or diagnosed with gastrointestinal, liver or pulmonary disease). Recruited participants meeting the inclusion criteria were randomised (by sex and study centre) to receive daily for 16 weeks either B vitamin-fortified or placebo drinks as developed by Smartfish, Norway. Each B vitamin-fortified drink (200 ml) contained 200 µg folic acid, 10 µg vitamin B12, 10 mg vitamin B6 and 5 mg riboflavin, while the placebo was an identical, isocaloric formulation without added B vitamins. Fasting blood samples were collected pre- and post-intervention which were used to measure the primary outcome of change in B vitamin biomarker levels.
Results: A total of 95 participants were randomised, of which 81 commenced the trial. Of these, 70 completed (37 in the active and 33 in the placebo groups). Intention to treat (ITT) analysis of the B vitamins demonstrated a significant improvement in all B vitamin biomarkers in the active compared to placebo groups: p < 0.01 for each of serum folate, serum vitamin B12 and plasma pyridoxal 5′-phosphate (vitamin B6) and the functional riboflavin biomarker, erythrocyte glutathione reductase activation coefficient (EGRac). Correspondingly, a significant lowering of serum homocysteine from 11.9 (10.3–15.1) µmol/L to 10.6 (9.4–13.0) µmol/L was observed in response to the active treatment (P < 0.001). Similar results were seen in a per-protocol analysis.
Conclusions: The results demonstrate that a B vitamin-fortified drink was effective in optimising B vitamin status, making this a useful intervention option to improve B vitamin status in older adults. Trial registration ISRCTN, ISRCTN61709781—Retrospectively registered, https://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN61709781
Original languageEnglish
Article number104
Number of pages104
JournalNutrition & Metabolism
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 7 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Opti-Age study was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and by the Department of Agriculture, Environmental and Rural Affairs (15F685). Smartfish AS (Norway) developed and produced the fortified drinks used in this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Research
  • Folate
  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B6
  • Riboflavin
  • Fortified drinks
  • B vitamin biomarkers
  • Older adults
  • Older Adults
  • B Vitamin Biomarkers
  • Fortified Drinks
  • riboflavin


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