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Vitamin D deficiency threatens seniors' mobility

July 23, 2013

Maintaining a high level of physical function is not only a crucial component of healthy aging, but it is also essential for the active retirement many seniors envision. Older adults take many steps to help ensure they're as mobile as possible, and a new study suggests that they should be sure they're getting enough vitamin D as part of this effort. Researchers from Amsterdam's VU University Medical Center found that seniors with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have at least one physical limitation.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, could have a significant impact on the senior population. Experts estimate that as many as 90 percent of older adults do not get sufficient levels of vitamin D. Relying on data from the The Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, researchers found that 70 percent of seniors who had the lowest levels of vitamin D had at least one physical limitation. 

"The findings indicate low vitamin D levels in older individuals may contribute to the declining ability to perform daily activities and live independently," lead author Evelien Sohl said. "Vitamin D supplementation could provide a way to prevent physical decline, but the idea needs to be explored further with additional studies."

Vitamin D plays a substantial role in bone health, but it is among the most difficult nutrients to get. Although vitamin D is most commonly absorbed through sunlight, there are several foods that offer high levels of the important vitamin. According to WebMD, certain fish such as tuna and salmon are good sources of vitamin D. Additionally, fortified foods including cereal, orange juice and some dairy products are also good options.