The great majority of geriatric patients in a German rehabilitation hospital were found to have vitamin D deficiency. Stefan Schilling presents his study results in Deutsches Arzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109[3]: 33-8).

In order to establish the vitamin D status in geriatric patients in Germany, the researchers measured 25-OH vitamin D in 1578 patients in the geriatric rehabilitation hospital in Trier after they had been examined on admission.

Insufficiently high concentrations were found in 89% of patients, and 67% had severe vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D affects the calcium and bone metabolism, and it is also attributed with numerous other effects. A sufficiently high concentration of vitamin D, and its effects on the muscles, seems to help reduce the risk of falls and thus of fractures.

Older people seek exposure to the sun less often than young people; the risk of skin cancer is another reason for restricting sun exposure. In contrast to the fluctuations in vitamin D levels between the summer and winter halves of the year that is observed in young people, the old patients in this study (average age 82) did not display any seasonal fluctuations.

According to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, daily supplementation with 800 IU of vitamin D is therefore advisable in people older than 70.