The multi-site study of patients aged 65 years or older examined the levels of vitamin D levels in blood serum, and nutrition and its impact on mobility.
Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that vitamin D deficiency limits mobility in older adults, specifically following surgery for a hip fracture.
Broken hips are among the most serious fall injuries for older adults, with many patients unable to live on their own afterward, according to the study authors. More than 300,000 people 65 or older are hospitalized annually for hip fractures in the United States and falling causes more than 95% of these fractures.
Notably, the authors said women fall more frequently than men, accounting for three-quarters of hip fractures. The number of fractures is also likely to rise as the population ages, according to the study.
“This matters because vitamin D deficiency and malnutrition are common disorders in elderly patients with hip fractures, and often occur together since both are complications of poor nutrition,” said senior author Sue Shapses, PharmD, RD, professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University—New Brunswick, in a statement.
The multi-site study of patients aged 65 years or older examined the levels of vitamin D levels in blood serum, and nutrition and its impact on mobility. The researchers focused on death rate or inability to walk 10 feet without someone’s help following surgery.
They found that vitamin D levels above 12 nanograms per milliliter in blood serum are associated with a higher rate of walking at 30 and 60 days after hip fracture surgery. Although poor nutrition is also associated with reduced mobility 30 days after surgery, that factor was not statistically significant.
In the statement, Shapses suggested that older adults should take 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily in order to prevent deficiency. It can be obtained through some foods, exposure to the sun, and vitamin pills.
Earlier studies have supported this recommendation
and have shown that taking vitamin D supplements can prevent falling and fractures. A similar study from Rutgers published in 2019 found that high vitamin D intake (4000 IU) may reduce reaction times, which could increase the risk of falling and fractures. Recommendations from the National Institutes of Health are 600 IU per day for people between 1 and 70 years old, and 800 IU per day for people over 70 years of age.
Vitamin D Boosts Chances of Walking After Hip Fracture [news release]. Rutgers University; March 17, 2020. https://www.rutgers.edu/news/vitamin-d-boosts-chances-walking-after-hip-fracture. Accessed March 23, 2020.