Determinants of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in older Irish adults

Age Ageing. 2015 Sep;44(5):847-53. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv090. Epub 2015 Aug 10.


Background: vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in older adults living in Northern Europe and is influenced by several factors which may vary significantly with age.

Objective: we aimed to investigate the determinants of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] in older Irish adults and in particular to examine the effect of supplement use and surrogate markers of sun exposure.

Methods: subjects were non-institutionalised community dwelling Irish adults aged over 60 years who were participants of a large cross-sectional study comprising three disease defined cohorts. Serum 25(OH)D was measured by liquid chromatography mass spectroscopy. Associations between 25(OH)D and potential confounders were explored in forward regression models in each cohort.

Results: the three cohorts comprised 1895, 1233 and 1316 participants (respective mean ages 70.1, 71.0 and 80.4 years). Statistical models explained between a fifth to a third of the variation in 25(OH)D. Supplement use and global solar radiation were positive predictors of 25(OH)D in all cohorts whereas the only universal negative predictor was body mass index. Supplement use was associated with a mean increase in 25(OH)D of between 21.4 and 35.4 nmol/l. The other main predictors varied by cohort but included sun holiday travel, enjoyment of sunshine when outside, use of vitamin D fortified milk, smoking, oily fish and egg consumption and physical frailty.

Conclusion: supplement use was the most important determinant of vitamin D status. Vitamin D fortified milk and spending time in the sun, even in the oldest old may also be useful strategies to improve 25(OH)D.

Keywords: older adults; older people; supplements; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Northern Ireland / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Protective Factors
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Sunlight
  • Time Factors
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / prevention & control


  • Biomarkers
  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D