Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Will you or your parents spend your last days in a nursing home? Can vitamin D and sunlight make a difference?

One of the callings I have had in my church is to help to administer church meetings for elderly men and women who are confined to nursing homes. Many of these sweet people are physically or mentally disabled and need care. Such facilities have been referred to as “centers of supervised neglect,” and I hope that I never need to spend time in one as a “patient.”
Interestingly, there is a direct correlation between vitamin D levels and the risk of being admitted to one of these homes. In fact, persons with the lowest levels of vitamin D are 3 ½ times more likely to be admitted to a nursing home.[1]

Vitamin D deficiency also correlates quite closely to falls, cognitive decline, muscle weakness, depression and mood disorders, all of which may lead to nursing-home admission. In the last blog, I made the case that Alzheimer’s may be, at least partially, a vitamin D deficiency disease. The solution to preventing this problem may cost about $20 per year in supplements (3,000- 5,000 IU daily), or simply making sure that the elderly are regularly outside in summer sunshine when available (never let them sunburn). In winter, supplementation is imperative.

[1] Visser, M. et al. Low serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in older persons and the risk of nursing home admission. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;84:616-622.

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