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Vitamin D deficiency common in older people

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Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, but new research shows that vitamin D deficiency is common in later life.

An investigation conducted by researchers at the German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München, revealed that half of people over the age of 65 have suboptimal levels of vitamin D in the blood.

What’s more, one in four older adults has suboptimal levels of vitamin B12, which also plays an important role in bone health.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, is based on blood samples from 1,079 adults aged 65 to 93 years. The analysis, part of the population-based KORA-Age study, focused on levels of four micronutrients: vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12 and iron.

“The results are very clear,” explained first author Romy Conzade. “Fifty-two percent of the examined older adults had vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L and thus had a suboptimal vitamin D status.”

The scientists also found that 27% of older adults had vitamin B12 levels below the cut-off, iron levels were too low in 11%, and almost 9% did not have enough folate in their blood.

Experts recommend that, where possible, we should get all the vitamins and minerals we need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

In the latest research, the majority of older adults with suboptimal vitamin levels were very old, physically inactive or frail. Special attention should be paid to these groups with a higher risk for micronutrient deficiencies, the researchers said.

“Our study also shows that regular intake of vitamin-containing supplements goes along with improved levels of the respective vitamins,” said study co-author Barbara Thorand. “However, vitamin-containing supplements are not a universal remedy, and particularly older people should watch out for maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet.”

Next, the authors plan to continue investigating the metabolic pathways that link supplement intake, micronutrient status and disease states.