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Vitamin D an important part of independent living

May 31, 2012

Nutrition can have a significant impact on senior health, and results of a recent study only strengthen the correlation. Scientists found that older adults who do not get enough vitamin D may be putting themselves at greater risk for limited mobility and disability, something that can greatly threaten independent living.

The research comes from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and focused on the correlation between vitamin D consumption and mobility over the course of six years. Scientists looked at the data of nearly 2,100 people between 70 and 79, and assessed their well-being every six months over the course of the study. At the end, they found a 30 percent greater risk of mobility limitations in people who had lower levels of vitamin D. Additionally, there was a twofold increase in the risk of mobility disability.

"Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other health conditions," lead author Denise Houston said. "However, clinical trials are needed to determine whether increasing vitamin D levels through diet or supplements has an effect on physical function."

The relationship between low vitamin D levels and increased disability risk may not come as a surprise to some people. According to the Mayo Clinic, the nutrient helps in the absorption of calcium, and is a crucial part of forming healthy muscles and bones, both of which are important in maintaining mobility later in life.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that about one-third of older adults do not get enough vitamin D. However, there are a number of ways for them to change their course. Certain foods, including fatty fish, fortified dairy products, cheese and egg yolks, all have vitamin D. Additionally, getting outside in the sun can naturally stimulate vitamin D production, according to WebMD.