Food and Behaviour Research

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The Prevalence and Determinants of Vitamin D Status in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Results from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

Aspell N, Laird E, Healy M, Shannon T, Lawlor B, O‚ÄôSullivan M (2019) Nutrients 2019 11(6),  1253; 

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Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with adverse health outcomes in older adults.

The circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) status predominately relies on UV exposure. However, the extent of which northerly latitude exasperates deficiency is less explored in ageing. We aimed to investigate vitamin D deficiency in community-dwelling, older adults, residing at latitudes 50-55° north.

This study was comprised of 6004 adults, aged >50 years from wave 6 (2012-2013) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Deficiency was categorised by two criteria: Institute of Medicine (IOM) (<30 nmol/L) and Endocrine Society (ES) (<50 nmol/L).

The overall prevalence of Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Endocrine Society (ES) definitions of deficiency were 26.4% and 58.7%, respectively. Females (odds ratio (OR) 1.23; CI: 1.04-1.44), those aged 80+ (OR: 1.42; CI: 1.01-1.93), smoking (OR: 1.88; CI: 1.51-2.34); of non-white ethnicity (OR: 3.8; CI:2.39-6.05); being obese (OR: 1.32; CI:1.09-1.58), and of poor self-reported health (OR:1.99; CI:1.33, 2.96), were more likely to be vitamin D deficient (by IOM).

Residents in the south of England had a reduced risk of deficiency (OR: 0.78; CI:0.64-0.95), even after adjustment for socioeconomic and traditional predictors (obesity, age, lifestyle, etc.) of vitamin D status. Other factors, such as being retired, having a normal BMI, engaging in regular vigorous physical activity, vitamin D supplement use, sun travel, and summer season were also significantly positive correlates of deficiency.  Similar results were observed for the ES cut-off definition.

Importantly, more than half of adults aged >50 years had 25(OH)D concentrations <50 nmol/L. These findings demonstrate that low vitamin D status is highly prevalent in older English adults and the crucial importance of public health strategies throughout midlife and older age to achieve optimal vitamin D status.

Keywords: 25-hydroxyvitamin D; community-dwelling; deficiency; latitude; vitamin D.


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