New Brunswick, NJ—Senior citizens who are not vitamin D deficient have a better chance of walking after hip fracture surgery, according to a new study from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Published inThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,the findings suggest that vitamin D deficiency could limit mobility in older adults, according to a press release. Older adults should take 800 IU of vitamin D daily to prevent deficiency, according to Sue Shapses, a Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers.

“An important next step is learning how vitamin D affects mobility,” Shapses said in the release. “For example, it is not clear if severe vitamin D deficiency is associated with direct effects on muscle, cognition, and/or other organ systems.”

A broken hip is hard to recover from; the release notes that many people are unable to live on their own afterward. In the United States, more than 300,000 people aged 65 or older are hospitalized for hip fractures annually. More than 95% of these fractures are caused by falling. Regaining mobility after a hip fracture is important for full recovery and to reduce risk of death.
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The study in question was performed on patients 65 or older in the United States and Canada. The study focused on death rate or inability to walk 10 feet (approximately the distance across a room) without someone’s help after surgery.

The findings: Vitamin D levels greater than 12 nanograms per milliliter in blood serum are associated with a higher rate of walking at 30 and 60 days after hip fracture surgery. Poor nutrition is also associated with reduced mobility 30 days after surgery, but the factor was not statistically significant.

Previous studies have shown that high vitamin D intake—4,000 IU a day—may reduce reaction time, suggesting that taking too much vitamin D is not ideal. However, the release notes, other studies have shown that people over 70 who take 800 IU per day can prevent falling and fractures.

Shapses concluded: “This matters because vitamin D deficiency and malnutrition are common disorders in elderly patients with hip fractures, and they often occur together, since both are complications of poor nutrition.”