Here’s news that may help older people avoid having to resort to using canes and walkers…
A new study found that people over age 70 who do not get enough vitamin D have a higher risk of developing problems with mobility that can result in disability (compared to those who do get enough D), according to researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Many studies have looked at how vitamin D can help health, but the new WFBMC study is one of the first to explore how vitamin D is related to “the onset of new mobility limitations or disability in older adults,” nutrition epidemiologist lead author Denise Houston, PhD, RD, lead author of the study, said in a WFBMC news release.
Since vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function, it’s plausible that low levels of vitamin D could be linked to mobility problems.
Houston’s team followed 2,099 men and women who were participating in the National Institute of Aging’s Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study. All were between 70 and 79 years old when they were enrolled in the study between April of 1997 and June of 1998. All were Medicare-eligible residents of two major metropolitan areas, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Memphis, Tennessee and planned to remain in the area for at least three years.
None had a life-threatening illness when the study began, and all were able to perform basic daily living activities, including having no difficulty walking several blocks (one fourth of a mile) or climbing 10 steps without having to stop and rest because of a physical problem.
Participants’ vitamin D level was measured by blood tests at the start of the study.
Their mobility limitations and mobility disability were also tested at the start and then were and rechecked twice a year for six years during annual clinic visits and six-month phone interviews.
The study showed that the 29 percent of participants whose vitamin D blood levels were below 50 nmol/L had a 30 percent higher risk of developing mobility limitations during the time of the study and “almost a two-fold higher risk of mobility disability” compared to those whose vitamin D was measured at 75 nmol/L or higher, Houston noted.
It’s not easy for older people to get enough vitamin D from diet and sunlight. Roughly a third of seniors have low vitamin D levels. Older people may need higher amounts of vitamin D than current guidelines recommend.
In addition to the many other health benefits it provides, vitamin D helps muscle function. Could vitamin D supplements prevent – or help to prevent – age-related mobility problems? We won’t know for sure until definitive trials have been done, but Houston says it’s biologically plausible.
In the meantime, it may be a good idea for older people to get a blood test to see if they’re getting enough vitamin D.
For more information:
About the research: Low vitamin D levels linked to mobility difficulties for the elderly, by Stephen Daniells, 31-May-2012, NUTRAIngredients.com
The journal in which the study was published: Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences
To learn more about the vitamin D blood test: LabTestsOnline.org
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