Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Vitamin D deficiency and nutritional status in elderly hospitalized subjects in Iceland

Alfons Ramela1 c1, Palmi V Jonssona2, Sigurbjorn Bjornssona2 and Inga Thorsdottira1

a1 Unit for Nutrition Research, Landspitali-University Hospital and Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Iceland, Eiriksgata 29, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland

a2 Departments of Geriatrics, Landspitali-University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland


Objective Poor nutrition and limited sunlight exposure (season) can be related to reduced serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations. Thus, elderly people in the Nordic countries might be at high risk for vitamin D deficiency. The aims of the study were to describe the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in elderly hospitalized patients in Reykjavik, Iceland, and to investigate the effects of nutritional status and season on serum 25(OH)D.

Design Cross-sectional study. Nutritional status was assessed and fasting blood was drawn and analysed for serum 25(OH)D and other clinical routine measurements.

Setting Departments of Geriatrics, Landspitali-University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Subjects Sixty hospitalized patients (mean age 83·0 (sd 7·9) years) were randomly assigned.

Results Of the patients, 12·3 % suffered from vitamin D deficiency (serum 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l) and 71·9 % suffered from hypovitaminosis D (serum 25(OH)D = 25–75 nmol/l). There were no significant effects of gender or nutritional status on serum 25(OH)D. Anthropometric variables correlated significantly with serum 25(OH)D, but on stepwise linear regression modelling for the prediction of serum 25(OH)D, BMI remained the only predictor variable (B = −1·454, 95 % CI −2·535, −0·373, P = 0·009).

Conclusions BMI was significantly negatively associated with serum 25(OH)D in hospitalized elderly patients. Neither nutritional status nor season significantly affected serum 25(OH)D in our patient group. Higher levels of serum 25(OH)D in elderly subjects with lower BMI are most likely explained by volume of distribution rather than by mobilization of vitamin D from its storage in adipose tissue due to age and disease-related catabolism.

(Received October 29 2007)

(Accepted November 18 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email