Older adults could really help reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes if they would get out in the sun more often. Exposure to sunlight stimulates vitamin D in the skin and older people are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency due to the natural aging process, along with changes in lifestyle.
Researchers at the University of Warwick have shown vitamin D deficiency is significantly associated with metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical and metabolic disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Dr Oscar Franco at Warwick led this team which investigated the association between vitamin D levels in the blood and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in 3,262 people aged 50-70 years old in China. The group found a high correlation between low vitamin D levels and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. In fact, 42.3% of these people shown with low vitamin D levels also had metabolic syndrome.
The results of the study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, are consistent with the findings of other studies in Western populations and the Franco team suggests that vitamin D deficiency could become a global health concern.
"Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a condition that is causing a large burden of disease across the globe with particular deleterious impact among the elderly. Our results are consistent with those found in British and American populations. We found that low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of having metabolic syndrome," he said. Vitamin D deficiency was also significantly associated with increased insulin resistance.
Changes in lifestyle factors such as clothing and reduced outdoor activity could certainly be a part of the problem, said this report. As we age, our skin is less efficient at forming vitamin D and our diet may also become less varied, with a lower natural vitamin D content.
Franco recommends that older adults need to spend more time outdoors to stimulate the same levels of vitamin D that most people have when they are younger.