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Keywords:

  • frailty;
  • mortality;
  • vitamin D

Objectives

To assess whether serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations relate to transitions between the states of robustness, prefrailty, and frailty and to mortality in older adults.

Design

The Invecchiare in Chianti (InCHIANTI) Study, a prospective cohort study.

Setting

Tuscany, Italy.

Participants

Adults aged 65 and older (N = 1,155).

Measurements

Serum 25(OH)D concentrations measured at baseline; frailty state (robust, prefrail, frail) assessed at baseline and 3 and 6 years after enrollment; and vital status determined 3 and 6 years after enrollment.

Results

The median (interquartile range) 25(OH)D concentration was 16.0 ng/mL (10.4–25.6 ng/mL; multiply by 2.496 to convert to nmol/L). Prefrail participants with 25(OH)D levels less than 20 ng/mL were 8.9% (95% confidence interval (CI) = 2.5–15.2%) more likely to die, 3.0% (95% CI = −5.6–14.6%) more likely to become frail, and 7.7% (95% CI = −3.5–18.7%) less likely to become robust than prefrail participants with 25(OH)D levels of 20 ng/mL or more. In prefrail participants, each 5-ng/mL decrement of continuous 25(OH)D was associated with 1.46 times higher odds of dying (95% CI = 1.18–2.07) and 1.13 higher odds of incident frailty (95% CI = 0.90–1.39) than with recovery of robustness. Transitions from robustness or frailty were not associated with 25(OH)D levels.

Conclusion

Results provide evidence that prefrailty is an “at risk” state from which older adults with high 25(OH)D levels are more likely to recover than to decline, but high 25(OH)D levels were not associated with recovery from frailty. Thus, 25(OH)D levels should be investigated as a potential therapy to treat prefrailty and prevent further decline.