Studies done on Irish adults aged 50+ have shown that that there is a widespread chronic deficiency of Vitamin D in this age group.
Noreen McGlynn, owner, Home Instead Senior Care, Letterkenny, says, “The importance of taking Vitamin D to help reduce the risk of falling and fractures in older people (60+) has been confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority. Many of us are aware that the primary source of Vitamin D is sunshine but given Ireland’s northerly latitude and constant cloud cover, unfortunately, sunshine does not make an appearance here for many months of the year.”
Gaye Godkin, Consultant Nutritionist to Home Instead Senior Care, Donegal, adds, “Many people are aware that Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium by the body. However, separately, it also affects muscle function and strength. As we age, it becomes more difficult to obtain and make Vitamin D. An elderly person has a significantly reduced capacity to produce Vitamin D in the body by comparison to a younger person.”
The best sources of dietary Vitamin D in the diet include: oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, trout; lambs liver; eggs, mushrooms; tinned fish such as sardines; cheese, yoghurt, butter and fortified milk.
However, Gaye advises that relying on food sources will not provide this group with sufficient Vitamin D daily. “National nutrition surveys have shown that the consumption of Vitamin D from food is very low, ranging from 144iu to a maximum of 288iu daily. But the minimum daily requirement to prevent falls and ultimate fractures is between 800iu – 1000iu of Vitamin D. So unless enormous amounts of the foods listed above are consumed, this minimum will not be reached without taking a supplement.”
Gaye recommends a diet high in both fresh oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and fresh tuna) and tinned fish as it has other health benefits also. “Until recently, Vitamin D was only associated with calcium transportation and bone health but research has now shown that it is vital for all cells in the body, including muscle cells. Vitamin D also shows great promise in the area of brain health and potential benefit for minimising ageing-related declines in cognitive performance.
“If and when the sun does shine, we all should aim to expose our arms and legs for 15-20 minutes per day or consume a supplement of Vitamin D daily, particularly during the winter months,” Gaye concludes.
For more helpful tips, visit www.homeinstead.ie.