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As people get older, one major concern is the decline in physical function, including mobility problems and an increased risk of disability. Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center believe older adults need more vitamin D to help prevent these physical limitations, which can in turn have a significant negative impact on quality of life.
A decline in the ability to perform daily living activities, walk and climb stairs without difficulty, and maintain sufficient muscle strength and tone to help prevent falls are challenges that face a growing number of aging adults. This same population is also prone to be deficient in vitamin D.
In fact, according to Denise Houston, PhD, RD, a nutrition epidemiologist in the Wake Forest Baptist Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology, “About one-third of older adults have low vitamin D levels” because they don’t get sufficient vitamin D intake from their diet and they also don’t get much exposure to the sun.
In Houston’s study, she and her team evaluated the association between vitamin D and the appearance of mobility limitations and disability over six years of follow-up using data from 2,099 individuals aged 70 to 79 who participated in the National Institute on Aging’s Health, Aging, and Body Composition study. Researchers analyzed walking and climbing ability and the ability to perform daily living activities, and also measured vitamin D levels.
Among older adults who had low levels of vitamin D, the investigators observed about a 30% increased risk of mobility limitations and nearly a twofold greater risk of mobility disability. Houston concluded that “Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other health conditions.
Houston DK et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and physical function in older adults: the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2011 Oct; 59(10): 1793-801