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Vitamin D Linked to Functional Ability

Numerous studies suggest that low vitamin D levels are linked to a higher risk of falls and broken bones in older people.  Perhaps that’s because this hormone cum vitamin is critical for maintaining muscle mass and strength.

Dutch researchers have now found evidence that lower vitamin D levels in older people are linked to impaired ability to perform everyday tasks. One group of 725 people between 55 and 65  years of age and another group older than 65 had their vitamin D levels measured. They were asked to climb 15 steps, stand up from a sitting position, get themselves dressed and undressed, walk outside for 5 minutes, use public transportation and cut their toenails  to assess how well they could function at home.

Those with vitamin D levels ( blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D) below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) were less able to accomplish these tasks compared to those whose vitamin D was at least 30 ng/ml. Among the older subjects, low vitamin D predicted an increase in functional limitations three years later. It remains to be determined whether supplementing with extra vitamin D would help people maintain mobility as they age.

[Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, online, July 17, 2013]

For more information on the effects of vitamin D and how to maintain adequate levels, you may wish to consult our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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