Vitamin D for Fall Prevention
Republished with permission of Natural Standards Research Collaboration ©2009

Vitamin D may help prevent falls in the elderly, according to a new analysis published in the British Medical Journal. The study supports earlier findings that vitamin D may improve balance, strength and bone health among older adults.

Vitamin D is found in many dietary sources, such as fish (such as salmon and tuna), fish liver oil and fortified foods (such as milk and cereal). The body also makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from sunlight. Vitamin D helps the body maintain normal blood levels of phosphorus and aids in the absorption of calcium, which is important to develop and maintain strong bones. Recent evidence also suggests vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer and several autoimmune diseases.

The researchers analyzed data from eight studies that tested the effects of vitamin D on fall prevention in 2,426 adults who were at least 65 years old.

The authors found that taking 700-1,000 IU of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 for two to five months significantly reduced the risk of falls by 19 percent and 26 percent, respectively. The beneficial effects remained after adjusting for age, living environment and calcium supplementation.

However, the dose is higher than the current recommended amount. The recommended amount for people who are 50-70 years old is 400 IU, while 600 IU is recommended for those who are older than 70. Some researchers have questioned whether the current recommended adequate levels are sufficient to meet physiological needs, particularly for people who are no exposed to sunlight regularly. The Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board recommends an upper limit of 2,000 IU of vitamin D, as higher doses may have toxic effects.

Vitamin D may interact with other agents, particularly digoxin, corticosteroids, stimulant laxatives, thiazide diuretics and herbs or supplements with similar effects.

H A Bischoff-Ferrari, director of centre on aging and mobility, B Dawson-Hughes, director of bone metabolism laboratory, H B Staehelin, professor emeritus, J E Orav, associate professor of biostatistics, A E Stuck, professor of geriatrics, R Theiler, head of rheumatology, J B Wong, professor of medicine, A Egli, fellow1, D P Kiel, associate professor of medicine, J Henschkowski, fellow Fall prevention with supplemental and active forms of vitamin D: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2009 Oct 1;339:b3692. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b3692.

This article appeared in the October 2009 issue of the Integrative Medicine Newsletter for Natural Standard