Increased vitamin D levels seem to be associated with significant improvements in physical condition among older adults, says a new study.
In the intervention trial, plasma vitamin D levels were analyzed for 424 participants aged 70–89 years along with their physical performance on condition tests (e.g., 400-meter walk test) over 12 months (1). The results showed that participants who had vitamin D deficiencies (25[OH]D below 20 ng/mL) at beginning of the study – about 50% of the group – but no longer suffered a lack of vitamin D after 12 months experienced significant improvements in physical performance compared with those whose 25(OH)D status remained the same. The researchers concluded that increased blood concentrations of vitamin D, measuring greater than or equal to 20 ng/mL, can improve older adults’ physical performance. Attaining adequate 25(OH)D levels may slow the decline in physical condition in older men and women and, ultimately, may delay the onset of disability.
According to the scientists, vitamin D deficiency and poor physical condition are common among the elderly. Both factors seem to be a strong risk factor for future disability. 25(OH)D has been shown to play an important role in muscle function through its regulation of calcium transport, uptake of inorganic phosphate for the production of energy-rich phosphate compounds, and protein synthesis in muscles. Randomized controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation have shown mixed results on physical condition among older adults. Inclusion of participants with sufficient vitamin D levels at baseline and inadequate vitamin D doses are possible reasons for inconsistencies.