Study: Vitamin K Associated with Mobility in Older Adults

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Boston, MA—Low levels of circulating vitamin K are linked to increased risk of mobility limitation and disability in older adults, according to research from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University. The study, titled Vitamin K Status and Mobility Limitation and Disability in Older Adults: The Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, is the first to study the connection between biomarkers of vitamin K status and the onset of mobility limitation and disability in older adults, according to a press release from HNRCA.

“Because of our growing population of older people, it’s important for us to understand the variety of risk factors for mobility disability,” Kyla Shea, first and corresponding author and nutrition scientist in the Vitamin K Laboratory at HNRCA, said in the release. “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 infancy. Here, we’re building on previous studies that found that low levels of circulating vitamin K are associated with slower gait speed and a higher risk of osteoarthritis.”

According to the release, this study used participant data from the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study—specifically, from 635 men and 688 women ages 70-79 years old. Mobility was assessed every six months for six to 10 years.

The study examined circulating levels of vitamin K and plasma ucMGP, a functional measure of vitamin K, and found that older adults with low levels of circulating vitamin K were 1.5 times more likely to develop mobility limitation and nearly twice as likely to develop mobility disability compared to those with sufficient levels. Plasma ucMGP did not show clear associations with mobility limitation and disability.

“The connection we saw with low levels of circulating vitamin K further supports vitamin K’s association with mobility disability,” said Sarah Booth, senior author of the paper and director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “Although the two biomarkers we looked at are known to reflect vitamin K status, biomarker levels can also be affected by additional known or unknown factors. Further experiments to understand the mechanisms of biomarkers and vitamin K and their role in mobility are needed.”

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