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Low Levels of Vitamin D and Frailty Linked With Premature Death

Researchers from Oregon State University have conducted the first study to look at the effects of both frailty and low levels of vitamin D on mortality risk. They found that mature adults who are frail and have low levels of vitamin D are 3 times more likely to die prematurely than those who are not frail and have high levels of vitamin D.

They suggested that people who are considered pre-frail could benefit from increasing their levels of vitamin D and possibly prolonging or avoiding the transition to frailty.

Frailty was defined as meeting three or more of the five frailty criteria. Pre-frailty was defined as meeting two or more. The five frailty criteria are:

1. Low BMI

2. Slow walking

3. Weakness

4. Exhaustion

5. Low physical activity

The researchers examined data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included more than 4,300 participants over the age of 60. The participants were assigned to one of four groups, depending on their vitamin D serum levels. The lowest level had less than 50 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D in their blood while the highest had levels of at least 84.

The study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition on June 13, 2012.

Vitamin D has been associated with a wide range of health benefits, including improved kidney health, reductions in skin cancer, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, improved cardiovascular health,combating diabetes, and improving age related eye degeneration.

Dietary vitamin D can be found in milk, fortified cereals, fish, and eggs. Your body also processes vitamin D from the sun but it becomes harder for our bodies to process vitamin D as we age. This can be a particular problem for people living in the northern hemisphere, where sunlight is scarce for much of the year. A high quality vitamin D supplement is always a good option if you feel that you’re not getting enough through diet and sun.

Frailty is not really a disease but rather a combination of the natural aging process and a variety of medical problems. Many of the causes of frailty, such as depression, vascular disease and vitamin deficiency, are treatable and even reversible through a combination of appropriate medical treatment, maintenance of a good diet and a good exercise regime.

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