Elderly Lack Adequate Levels of Vitamin D

May 08, 2001

New York (MedscapeWire) May 8 — House-bound elderly patients and those confined to nursing homes may suffer from vitamin D deficiencies, according to a poster presented at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 10th Annual Meeting, held in San Antonio, Texas.

Rajesh Garg, MD, and colleagues measured vitamin D levels in 18 patients aged 61-96 years. Despite the fact that most of patients were daily receiving multivitamins containing 400-800 IU of vitamin D, investigators found that the majority had low levels of the nutrient.

Dr. Garg and colleagues undertook the study after 5 cases of severe myopathy due to vitamin D deficiency were reported around the Buffalo area in New York State.

Of the 13 women and 5 men studied, 10 patients had vitamin D levels below 15 ng/mL. Only 2 patients had vitamin D levels above 20 ng/mL. Levels below 15 ng/mL are considered deleterious for skeletal health.

Vitamin D increases calcium absorption by 30% to 80% and is therefore crucial in order to maintain strong bones. The elderly are especially vulnerable to breakage.

The investigators speculate that home- or nursing home-bound subjects do not produce enough vitamin D because they are not receiving adequate exposure to sunlight.

Garg and colleagues recommend that elderly patients receive higher dose vitamin D supplements than those routinely prescribed.

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