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Diet & Nutrition

Vitamin Deficiency in Later Life

Fifty percent of adults 65 and over have insufficient levels of Vitamin D, according to European researchers.

That conclusion was reached in a study conducted by investigators at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, as part of the population-based KORA-Age study in the region of Augsburg in southern Germany. Moreover, as the authors of the study report in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, one in four older adults has suboptimal vitamin B12 levels.

The aim of the study is to understand the impact of environmental factors, lifestyle factors and genes on health. “In this context, we were also interested in examining the micronutrient status of older adults, including vitamins” explains study leader Dr. Barbara Thorand of the Institute of Epidemiology (EPI), Helmholtz Zentrum München. “So far, in Germany, research data on this topic has been relatively thin on the ground.”

The scientists examined blood samples of 1,079 older adults, aged 65 to 93 years, focusing their analysis on levels of four micronutrients: vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12 and iron.

“The results are very clear,” said first author Romy Conzade. “Fifty-two percent of the examined older adults had a suboptimal vitamin D status.” The scientists also observed shortages of the other micronutrients. Notably, 27 percent of older adults had insufficient levels of B12. Moreover, in 11 percent of older adults, iron levels were too low, and almost nine percent did not have enough folate in their blood.

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

The authors emphasized that while a regular intake of supplements increases levels of the vitamins, older people should still have a healthy diet.