North-south gradients in plasma concentrations of B-vitamins and other components of one-carbon metabolism in Western Europe: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) Study

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Different lifestyle patterns across Europe may influence plasma concentrations of B-vitamins and one-carbon metabolites and their relation to chronic disease. Comparison of published data on one-carbon metabolites in Western European regions is difficult due to differences in sampling procedures and analytical methods between studies. The present study aimed, to compare plasma concentrations of one-carbon metabolites in Western European regions with one laboratory performing all biochemical analyses. We performed the present study in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort among 5446 presumptively healthy individuals. Quantile regression was used to compare sex-specific median concentrations between Northern (Denmark and Sweden), Central (France, Germany, The Netherlands and United Kingdom) and Southern (Greece, Spain and Italy) European regions. The lowest folate concentrations were observed in Northern Europe (men, 10.4 nmol/l; women, 10.7 nmol/l) and highest concentrations in Central Europe. Cobalamin concentrations were slightly higher in Northern Europe (men, 330 pmol/l; women, 352 pmol/l) compared with Central and Southern Europe, but did not show a clear north-south gradient. Vitamin B-2 concentrations were highest in Northern Europe (men, 22.2 nmol/l; women, 26.0 nmol/l) and decreased towards Southern Europe (P-trend < 0.001). Vitamin B-6 concentrations were highest in Central Europe in men (77.3 nmol/l) and highest in the North among women (70.4 nmol/l), with decreasing concentrations towards Southern Europe in women (P-trend < 0.001). In men, concentrations of serine, glycine and sarcosine increased from the north to south. In women, sarcosine increased from Northern to Southern Europe. These findings may provide relevant information for the study of regional differences of chronic disease incidence in association with lifestyle.


  • Simone J. P. M. Eussen
  • Roy M. Nilsen
  • Oivind Midttun
  • Steinar Hustad
  • Noortje IJssennagger
  • Klaus Meyer
  • Ase Fredriksen
  • Arve Ulvik
  • Per M. Ueland
  • Paul Brennan
  • Mattias Johansson
  • Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita
  • Paolo Vineis
  • Shu-Chun Chuang
  • Marie Christine Boutron-Ruault
  • Laure Dossus
  • Florence Perquier
  • Kim Overvad
  • Birgit Teucher
  • Verena A. Grote
  • Antonia Trichopoulou
  • George Adarakis
  • Maria Plada
  • Sabina Sieri
  • Rosario Tumino
  • Maria Santucci de Magistris
  • Martine M. Ros
  • Petra H. M. Peeters
  • Maria Luisa Redondo
  • Raul Zamora-Ros
  • Maria-Dolores Chirlaque
  • Eva Ardanaz
  • Joern Schneede
  • Bethany van Guelpen
  • Petra A. Wark
  • Valentina Gallo
  • Teresa Norat
  • Elio Riboli
  • Stein Emil Vollset
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Nutrition and Dietetics


  • B-vitamins, Amino acids, One-carbon metabolism, Europe
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-374
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch

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