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Lack of Vitamin D May Harm Older Women's Health

TUESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- Vitamin D deficiency is common among women in nursing homes and is associated with an increased risk of death, a new study finds.

The findings highlight the need to prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency, according to lead author Dr. Stefan Pilz, of the Medical University of Graz in Austria, and colleagues.

Their study of nearly 1,000 female nursing home residents, average age almost 84, in Austria found that 284 (30 percent) of the patients died after an average follow-up time of 27 months. The researchers also found that almost 93 percent had lower-than-recommended vitamin D levels.

The study appears in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

"Our findings show that the vast majority of nursing home residents are severely vitamin D deficient and those with the lowest vitamin D levels are at high risk of mortality," Pilz said in a news release from the Endocrine Society. "This situation warrants immediate action to prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency."

Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for bone problems. Treatment involves taking up to 800 international units of vitamin D a day.

"Vitamin D supplementation in these patients can exert significant benefits on clinically relevant outcomes such as fractures," Pilz said. "In light of our findings, and the existing literature on adverse effects of vitamin D deficiency, there exists now an urgent need for effective strategies to improve vitamin D status in older institutionalized patients."

While the study uncovered an association between vitamin D deficiency and mortality among women in nursing homes, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The National Osteoporosis Foundation has more about vitamin D and bone health.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Endocrine Society, news release, March 6, 2012

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