Vitamin deficiency in later life

December 18, 2017, Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

One in two persons aged 65 and above has suboptimal blood levels of vitamin D. This is the conclusion of an investigation conducted by researchers at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, as part of the population-based KORA-Age study in the region of Augsburg. Moreover, as the authors of the study report in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, one in four older adults has suboptimal vitamin B12 levels.

For more than 30 years, the KORA Cooperative Health Research platform has been examining the health of thousands of people living in the greater Augsburg area in Southern Germany. The aim of the study is to understand the impact of environmental factors, lifestyle factors and genes on health. "In this context, we were also interested in examining the status of older adults, including vitamins," explains study leader Dr. Barbara Thorand of the Institute of Epidemiology (EPI), Helmholtz Zentrum München. "So far, in Germany, research data on this topic has been relatively thin on the ground."

Overall, the scientists examined blood samples of 1,079 older adults, aged 65 to 93 years from the KORA study. Their analysis focused on levels of four micronutrients: vitamin D, folate, vitamin B12 and iron.

"The results are very clear," explains first author Romy Conzade. "Fifty-two percent of the examined older adults had vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L and thus had a suboptimal vitamin D status." The scientists also observed shortages with regard to some of the other micronutrients. Notably, 27 percent of older adults had vitamin B12 levels below the cut-off. Moreover, in 11 percent of older , iron levels were too low, and almost 9 percent did not have enough folate in their blood.

EPI director Professor Annette Peters puts the data into context: "By means of blood analyses, the current study has confirmed the critical results of the last German National Nutrition Survey (NVS II), which revealed an insufficient intake of micronutrients from foods. This is a highly relevant issue, particularly in light of our growing aging population."

The majority of with suboptimal vitamin levels were very old, physically inactive or frail. Special attention should, therefore, be paid to these groups with a higher risk for micronutrient deficiencies, explain the researchers. "Our study also shows that regular intake of vitamin-containing supplements goes along with improved levels of the respective vitamins," says Barbara Thorand. "However, -containing supplements are not a universal remedy, and particularly older people should watch out for maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet."

In this context, the authors say their next objective is to continue investigating the metabolic pathways that link supplement intake, micronutrient status and disease states.

Explore further: Dietary supplement use among older persons

More information: Romy Conzade et al, Prevalence and Predictors of Subclinical Micronutrient Deficiency in German Older Adults: Results from the Population-Based KORA-Age Study, Nutrients (2017). DOI: 10.3390/nu9121276

Related Stories

Dietary supplement use among older persons

December 6, 2013
Many older people are ingesting too much magnesium and vitamin E in the form of dietary supplements. This was discovered by scientists of the Helmholtz Zentrum München in a population-based study; their results have been ...

Low vitamin D levels if you're lactose intolerant

May 23, 2017
Those with a genetic intolerance to lactose may suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. That's according to a recent study conducted at the University of Toronto and published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Increase in use of high-dose vitamin D supplements

June 20, 2017
From 1999 through 2014 the number of U.S. adults taking daily vitamin D supplements above the recommended levels increased, and 3 percent of the population exceeded the daily upper limit considered to possibly pose a risk ...

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with mortality in older adults

October 2, 2012
Low levels of vitamin D and high levels of parathyroid hormone are associated with increased mortality in African American and Caucasian older adults, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's ...

Recommended for you

Exposure to low levels of BPA during pregnancy can lead to altered brain development

March 17, 2018
New research in mice provides an explanation for how exposure to the widely used chemical bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy, even at levels lower than the regulated "safe" human exposure level, can lead to altered brain ...

Smoking linked with higher risk of type 2 diabetes

March 15, 2018
The prevalence of diabetes has increased almost 10-fold in China since the early 1980s, with one in 10 adults in China now affected by diabetes. Although adiposity is the major modifiable risk factor for diabetes, other research ...

Key drivers of high US healthcare spending identified

March 13, 2018
The major drivers of high healthcare costs in the U.S. appear to be higher prices for nearly everything—from physician and hospital services to diagnostic tests to pharmaceuticals—and administrative complexity.

Pedometer health boost lasts four years

March 13, 2018
Wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps can keep you healthier and more active for as long as four years after using it, a new study shows.

Toilet-to-tap: Gross to think about, but how does it taste?

March 13, 2018
Here's a blind test taste like Pepsi never imagined. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, recently published a study of recycled wastewater that did not focus on its safety-which has long been established-but ...

The Great Recession took a toll on public health, study finds

March 12, 2018
The Great Recession, spanning 2008 to 2010, was associated with heightened cardiovascular risk factors, including increased blood pressure and glucose levels, according to a new UCLA-led study. The connections were especially ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.