In addition to promoting bone health, enjoying the sunshine could help older people reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to scientists.
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.
The human body has the ability to synthesize vitamin D in response to exposure to the sun. However, recent studies have pointed to a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among Americans than previously thought.
When it comes to the elderly, says Dr. Oscar Franco, the research team leader from the Warwick Medical School, there are many factors which could explain their lower levels of vitamin D, including clothing that tends to cover more of the body and less outdoor activity.
“[As we get older] dermal production of vitamin D following a standard exposure to UVB light decreases,” says Franco.
“[Therefore] we may need to spend more time outdoors to stimulate the same levels of vitamin D we had when we were younger,” he adds.
Another option recommended by physicians is to use nutritional supplements containing the vitamin.