Make Vitamin D While the Sun Shines, Take Supplements When It Doesn′t: A Longitudinal, Observational Study of Older Adults in Tasmania, Australia
PLoS ONE 8(3): e59063. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059063
Jane K. Pittaway, Kiran D. K. Ahuja, Jeffrey M. Beckett, Marie-Louise Bird, Iain K. Robertson, Madeleine J. Ball
Low vitamin D status has been associated with a number of chronic conditions, particularly in older adults. The aim of this study was to identify how best to maintain optimum vitamin D status throughout the year in this high-risk population. The main objectives of the study were to assess seasonal vitamin D status; identify the main determinants of vitamin D status; determine if taking part in the study led to alterations in participant behaviour and vitamin D status.
A longitudinal design across four consecutive seasons observed ninety-one 60–85 year old community-dwelling adults in Tasmania (41 degree latitude S) over 13 consecutive months, with a follow-up assessment at next winter's end. Associations between solar UVB exposure, sun protection behaviours, dietary and supplemental vitamin D with serum 25(OH)D concentrations were assessed.
Variation in serum 25(OH)D demonstrated an identical pattern to solar UVB, lagging 8–10 weeks. Serum 25(OH)D was positively associated with summer UVB (mean 15.9 nmol/L; 95%CI 11.8–19.9 nmol/L, p<0.001) and vitamin D supplementation (100–600 IU/day: 95%CI 10.2 nmol/L; 0.8–19.6 nmol/L; p = 0.03; 800 IU/day: 21.0 nmol/L; 95%CI 8.1–34.0 nmol/L; p = 0.001). Seasonal variation in serum 25(OH)D was greatly diminished in supplement users.
The most common alteration in participant behaviour after the study was ingesting vitamin D supplements.
Post-study vitamin D supplementation ℘800 IU/day was seven times more likely than during the study resulting in mean difference in serum 25(OH)D between supplement and non-supplement users of 30.1 nmol/L (95%CI 19.4–40.8 nmol/L; p<0.001).
The main limitation was homogeneity of participant ethnicity. Solar exposure in summer and ingestion of vitamin D supplements in other seasons are the most effective ways of achieving and maintaining year-round vitamin D sufficiency in older adults in the Southern hemisphere.
Vitamin D supplementation has greatest effect on vitamin D status if ingested during and after winter, i.e. between the autumn and spring equinoxes.
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