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Sex-specific association of serum vitamin D levels with physical function in older adults

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In women, but not men, lower 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels were associated with impaired performance on two lower extremity function tests in both cross-sectional and prospective analyses.


Preserved physical function may explain how 25(OH)D supplementation reduces falls and fractures.


A total of 1,065 community-dwelling men and women (mean age 74.6 years) with 25(OH)D levels and performance on timed up and go (TUG) and timed chair stand (TCS) were seen in 1997–1999; 769 (72%) participants returned for follow-up. Associations were examined using generalized linear models.


25(OH)D levels were higher in men than women, but the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency defined as 25(OH)D <75 nmol/L was 14%. There were no baseline sex differences in TUG or TCS. However, after 2.5 years, decline in TCS and TUG was greater in women than men (11% vs. 3%; p < 0.001). Women in the lowest 25(OH)D quartile (<80 nmol/L) compared to the highest quartile had an accelerated rate of functional decline on the TUG and TCS independent of covariates. No significant associations were seen in men.


In women, but not men, lower 25(OH)D levels were associated with impaired performance on two lower extremity function tests in both cross-sectional and prospective analyses. These results provide additional evidence that 25(OH)D is associated with physical function, which may explain how vitamin D supplementation reduces falls and fractures.

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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, NIH/NIA Contracts 5 R37 AG007181. This study was partially supported by an unrestricted grant by the Alliance for Better Bone Health: Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Dam a is recipient of the HRSA Geriatric Academic Career Award.

Conflicts of interest

All authors indicate financial support for research, consultations, and speakers forum, as well as having any company holdings (e.g., stocks) or patents. Thuy-Tien Dam: research support: Alliance for Better Bone Health; Denise von Mühlen: none;Elizabeth Barrett-Connor: consulting contracts and research support: Eli Lilly & Company, Merck & Company.

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Correspondence to T.-T. L. Dam.

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Dam, TT.L., von Mühlen, D. & Barrett-Connor, E.L. Sex-specific association of serum vitamin D levels with physical function in older adults. Osteoporos Int 20, 751–760 (2009).

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