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Many old people lack vitamins and minerals

Many old people lack vitamins and mineralsMore than 25 percent of people older than 65 years have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Deficiencies in vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron are also common. This is the conclusion of a large study that was conducted by scientists from Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich, Germany. The widespread lack of vitamins and minerals among older people is critical, especially because this population group is increasing. The lack of essential nutrients affects the calcium uptake, immune defense, and nervous system among other things, leaving older people increasingly vulnerable to osteoporosis, influenza, dementia, and a host of other diseases that impair quality of life and burden the entire public health sector.

For more than 30 years, the cooperative platform for health examinations (KORA) has studied over a thousand people from the Augsburg region of southern Germany. The purpose with these studies is to get a better understanding of how diet, lifestyle, and genes affect our health.
According to Dr. Barbara Thorand, who headed the research, the group of scientist have investigated levels of specific vitamins and minerals in the elderly people, simply because there is not a whole lot of research in this area.
The researchers studied blood samples from 1,079 KORA study participants in the age group 65-93 years. Their analyses focused on blood levels of four nutrients: Vitamin D, folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron

Widespread lack of vitamin D affects the bones, immune defense, and many other things

Fifty-two percent of the older people lacked vitamin D with blood levels lower than the 50 nmol/L threshold. A vitamin D deficiency inhibits the body’s ability to absorb calcium and that increases your risk of osteoporosis. A vitamin D deficiency also increases your risk of influenza, aching joints, atherosclerosis, cancer, and many other diseases, as the vitamin serves as a hormone, which all cells need.

Lack of vitamin B12 affects your energy levels, memory, and nervous system

Twenty-seven percent of the older people lacked vitamin B12. This may impair one or several vitamin D-dependent functions, where the energy turnover and nervous system have a crucial role. Lack of vitamin B12 may cause anemia, fatigue, poor concentration, impaired memory, dementia, mood swings, and insomnia, a problem that many older people suffer from. In fact, they may even get a completely wrong diagnosis and treatment.
Too little vitamin B12 and poor utilization of the nutrient may be caused by ageing processes, poor dietary habits, too little gastric acid, and use of sleeping pills and an anti-rheumatic drug called methotrexate, which many older people use.

Lack of vitamin B12 and folic acid may lead to poor sleep, fatigue, memory problems, and dementia (which many people suffer from).

Lack of folic acid may lead to fatigue and dementia

Nearly nine percent of the older people in the study had too little folic acid in their blood. Folic acid works together with vitamin B12 and is important for blood formation, the immune system, and the mental balance. Lack of folic acid may cause anemia, fatigue, impaired sense of taste, digestive trouble, dementia, and depression.
Having too little folic acid may be a result of ageing processes, poor diet, smoking, overconsumption of alcohol, and using the anti-rheumatic drug methotrexate.

Lack of vitamin B12 is often seen in conjunction with folic acid deficiency

An iron deficiency impairs your vitality

Eleven percent of the older people in the study lacked iron. Iron is one of the most important trace elements and is important for vitality, the formation of red blood cells, oxygen transport in the body, the immune system, and for skin, hair, and nails. Having too little iron may therefore cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, paleness, impaired resistance and skin, hair, and nail problems.
Lack of iron among older people may be a result of poor dietary habits, drinking too much coffee and tea, having too little vitamin C, too little gastric juice, using antacids, and consuming large quantities of calcium from dairy products and supplements, which inhibits the iron uptake.

The study results are critical

Professor Annette Peters who had gathered various types of data in a greater context says that the critical study results confirm an earlier study (NVSII), which shows that the dietary intake of nutrients is insufficient. The new study is highly relevant, especially because of the increasing number of elderly people.
Most of the older people who lacked the different vitamins and minerals had one thing in common: They were very old and were physically inactive or fragile. The researchers recommend more focus on these exposed groups.
Vitamin and mineral supplementation is a good way to increase blood levels of the different nutrients. However, they are not universal remedies, and older people should generally try to eat a healthy and nutritious diet with adequate amounts of fiber and essential nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, and selenium,
The German study is published in the science journal Nutrients. In the following study, the researchers plan to look closer at the relation between vitamin and mineral supplements, blood levels of the nutrients, and various diseases.


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

Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Enviromental Health

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