December 12, 2007

Vitamin D deficiency accelerates aging in the elderly

Vitamin D deficiency accelerates aging in the elderly
by David Gutierrez

(NewsTarget) Insufficient intake of vitamin D may lead to decreased physical strength, increased muscle weakness and increased risk of disability in older women and men, according to a new study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Because vitamin D deficiency is widespread, the researchers have suggested that increasing vitamin D intake may help older adults decrease their risk of disability and maintain better muscle strength and physical performance.

Researchers measured the serum levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D for 976 adults over the age of 64. They also took measures of grip strength -- which is a good predictor of the risk of future disability -- and physical performance.

Twenty-nine percent of the women and 14 percent of the men participating were found to be vitamin D deficient, as measured by their blood levels. Compared to the participants with normal vitamin D levels, these people scored 5 to 10 percent lower on measures of grip strength and physical performance. This correlation was found to be independent of other factors, including the participant's activity level, mental function, weight and overall health.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that the body produces upon exposure to sunlight -- as little as 15 to 30 minutes, depending on skin color, latitude and time of year. It is known to be essential for bone health, but recent studies have suggested that it also plays an important role in protecting against cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis and even the common cold.

The current recommended daily allowance for vitamin D, however, is based upon the levels needed to merely maintain healthy bones -- a level that many researchers believe may be lower than that needed for other health benefits.

According to researcher Denise K. Houston of the Wake Forest University of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, "Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other conditions such as cancer prevention."

Because of this, many scientists are now recommending a daily intake of 2000 IU, rather than the currently recommended 400 IU.

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