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Elderly people may have an increased risk of vitamin deficiency

Published on

11 November 2011

A new Austrian study indicates that significant portions of the elderly population are at a high risk of lacking vitamins, especially D and K, and several B vitamins.

In the observational study, blood vitamin concentrations were measured in 102 non-institutionalized subjects aged between 70-90 years, half of whom regularly took dietary supplements (1). The study results showed that many of the participants had insufficient vitamin intakes: 88% were deficient in vitamin D, 42% in vitamin K, 29% in vitamin B6, and up to 10% in vitamins B1B2B12, and folate. A considerable percentage of participants were at risk for vitamin deficiencies (vitamins B1, B6, B12, folate: 20-30%; vitamin B2: 60%). The regular intake of supplements increased vitamin levels in general, even though various supplements taken by the participants provided different amounts of vitamins.

The researchers concluded that these results indicate that the use of supplements can significantly improve the status of several vitamins in elderly people. Due to age-related problems concerning the intake and digestion of nutrients, a moderate, regular supplementation might be a useful option for older people who are otherwise unable to satisfy their micronutrient requirements.

Several studies indicate that many older adults develop nutrition-related problems because they are not getting the proper amount of micronutrients needed on a daily basis (2, 3). Elderly people are often at risk for inadequate nutrient supply due to physiological, metabolic, and age-associated factors affecting nutrient and fluid intake (4, 5). The prevalence of an inadequate nutritional status and of the risk of malnutrition in older adults has been reported to range from 4% or 25% (>65 years) to 50% of elderly people in residential care facilities (average age: 84 years) and up to 85% of elderly people in long-term nursing home residents (6). Several studies have demonstrated a remarkable impact of vitamin status on health benefit and disease prevention in elderly people, therefore the use of nutritional supplements could help some people meet their nutrition needs and optimize their health (7).


  1. Fabian E. et al. Vitamin status in elderly people in relation to use of nutritional supplements. J Nutr Health Aging. Online publication November 2011.

  2. Finke M. S. and Huston S. J. Healthy Eating Index scores and the elderly. Fam Econ Nutr Rev. 2003; 15(1):

  3. Juan W. Y. et al. Quality of Diets of Older Americans. (US Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion). Nutrition Insight 29. 2004.

  4. Pirlich M. et al. The German hospital malnutrition study. Clin Nutr. 2006; 25(4):563–572.

  5. Drewnowski A. and Shultz J. M. Impact of aging on eating behaviors, food choices, nutrition and health status. J Nutr Health Aging. 2001; 5(2):75–79.

  6. Nieuwenhuizen W. F. et al. Older adults and patients in need of nutritional support: Review of current treatment options and factors influencing nutritional intake. Clin Nutr. 2010; 29(2):160–169.

  7. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient supplementation. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109:

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