Vitamin K levels may play a role in keeping older adults mobile and physically able, say researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

Their investigation followed more than 1,300 men and women aged 70-79 for 6-to-10 years, and noted their ability to walk a quarter mile or climb 10 steps without resting at six-month intervals. Those with low levels of circulating vitamin K were 1.5 times more likely to have mobility limitations and twice as likely to have a mobility disability than those with sufficient levels, the research team said.

Low levels of circulating vitamin K are already associated with chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis that can lead to limitations like lower gait speed. The Tufts study is the first to evaluate the association between biomarkers of vitamin K status and the onset of these problems in older adults, and more studies are needed to further explain the association, said first author and nutrition scientist Kyla Shea, Ph.D., in a statement. “Because of our growing population of older people, it’s important for us to understand the variety of risk factors for mobility disability,” she explained.

Important dietary sources of vitamin K include vegetables, especially leafy greens, along with oils and some fruits. Adequate daily intake for men and women over 19 years old should be 120 mcg and 90 mcg, respectively, according to the National Institutes of Health.

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