March 9, 2012

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Early Death in Elderly

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The majority of elderly women who are institutionalized are vitamin D deficient. A new study shows that there is an inverse relationship between those who are vitamin D deficient and mortality.

Vitamin D deficiency is extraordinarily prevalent in the elderly. It is considered a causal risk factor for skeletal diseases. Therefore, recommendations for dietary vitamin D intake for the elderly are higher than any other age group. A daily ingestion of up to 800 IU of vitamin D is suggested for treatment. The study explored whether vitamin D is an independent risk factor for mortality in institutionalized elderly patients.

Researchers studied 961 patients from nursing homes in Austria in their 80´s. After 27 months, researchers recorded 284 deaths at the follow-up. Researchers found that vitamin D levels were below recommended levels in 92.8% of participants. This suggests that even though vitamin D deficiencies among elderly populations have been acknowledged for several years now, effective strategies to treat the deficiency have not yet been developed or implemented.

"Our findings show that the vast majority of nursing home residents are severely vitamin D deficient and those with the lowest vitamin D levels are at high risk of mortality. This situation warrants immediate action to prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplementation in these patients can exert significant benefits on clinically relevant outcomes such as fractures. In light of our findings, and the existing literature on adverse effects of vitamin D deficiency, there exists now an urgent need for effective strategies to improve vitamin D status in older institutionalized patients," lead author of the study, Dr. Stefan Pilz, M.D., of the Medical University of Graz, Austria was quoted saying.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM), March 2012