The elderly have 'sub-optimal' levels of most nutrients, which can cause—or worsen—many chronic health problems, say researchers at the German Research Centre for Environmental Health in Munich. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to heart problems, asthma and cognitive decline.
Around 52 per cent of the over-65s are low in vitamin D, known as the 'sunshine vitamin', while more than a quarter are deficient in vitamin B12, and around 10 per cent are also low in iron and folate.
It could well be that the elderly are also low in other nutrients as well, but the researchers tested for only those four when they took blood samples from 1,079 participants aged between 65 and 93 years.
Taking a vitamin supplement should become part of the daily regime for all older people, the researchers say, but it's also important to eat foods that are rich in the vitamins; oily fish and eggs, for instance, are rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is a particular problem in the northern hemisphere where sunlight is strong for only a few months of the year.