Older adults with insufficient vitamin K are likely to be at higher risk for mobility disability. These are the results of a new study published in the recent issue of ‘The Journals of Gerontology: Series A’. The research showed that low levels of vitamin K could hinder movement in older adults. The researchers typically defined mobility as the ‘ability to move independently’ from one place to another. Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble compounds that have a similar chemical structure and are present in some foods. Phylloquinone is the main dietary form of vitamin K and is present mainly in leafy greens. Dietary sources of vitamin K include kale, spinach, broccoli, and other leafy greens. Some dairy foods also contain vitamin K. Kale or leaf cabbage is one of certain cultivars of cabbage grown for their edible leaves.
The researchers, who carried out the study, said that their findings “suggest vitamin K may be involved in the disablement process in older age.” According to the researchers, physical independence is integral to healthy ageing and older adults’ quality of life. From being able to get out of bed to walking and climbing stairs, much of daily activity involves mobility. “Low vitamin K status has been associated with the onset of chronic diseases that lead to disability, but the work to understand this connection is in its in-fancy,” said M. Kyla Shea, the study’s first and corresponding author.
Shea researches Vitamin K at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing at Tufts University in Boston, MA. Shea explained that the new evidence builds on earlier studies that have associated low levels of circulating vitamin K with “slower gait speed and a higher risk of osteoarthritis.” Previous studies have established links between vitamin K and long-term conditions that can raise the risk of mobility disability. These conditions include cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis. A 2018 study that reviewed the available evidence suggested that around 30 per cent of older adults have limited mobility. The most common causes of mobility disability in older people are the onset of lung problems, arthritis, and other long-term (chronic) conditions. To assess vitamin K status, Shea and her colleagues measured two blood biomarkers: phylloquinone and uncarboxylated matrix Gla protein (ucMGP), a protein that requires vitamin K. They noted that ucMGP in the blood “increases when vitamin K status is low.” The data that they analyzed came from 688 women and 635 men in the Health, Ageing, from 70 to 79 years and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study.
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