Introduction to the TRIM project

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is an essential micronutrient found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin. It is needed for development and maintenance of a healthy nervous system, the production of DNA , and formation of red blood cells.

B12 deficiency has been demonstrated to be prevalent among the elderly due to a high occurrence of age-related malabsorption. A severe B12 deficiency results in anemia and severe neural impairment. The less dramatic symptoms of a moderate B12 deficiency may include muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, depression and other mood disorders, and cognitive problems like poor memory.

Vitamin B12 is naturally present in cow’s milk, where it is bound to its carrier protein, transcobalamin. Recent research suggests that the form of B12 found in dairy products, and particularly in milk, is more readily absorbed by the human body and has the strongest correlation with blood levels of the vitamin B12 compared to other dietary sources. The reason for this superior bioavailability of milk-derived vitamin B12 remains to be determined.

We hypothesize that the binding to transcobalamin and high digestibility of the milk matrix facilitates the high bioavailability of vitamin B12 from milk. In TRIM, the competences, analytical methodologies and experimental models established in the laboratories of the participants are combined in an effort to establish a scientific foundation for the development of a tailored nutrient that circumvents the problem of vitamin B12 malabsorption common among the elderly.

The TRIM project has two major objectives:

1) To investigate why vitamin B12 in cow’s milk is absorbed more efficiently than vitamin B12 in other food items.

2) To tailor a new commercially sound hyper-B12 dairy product suited to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency, and to examine the uptake of vitamin B12 from this product in clinical trials.