The People's Perspective on Medicine

Boosting Vitamin D Did Not Keep Seniors from Falling

Boosting Vitamin D with high dose supplementation was associated with more falls rather than fewer and did not prevent broken bones.

Vitamin D is crucial to bone health, but also may be essential for muscle strength. Previous research has indicated that older people with too little vitamin D in their systems are more susceptible to falls and fractures. It seemed logical to conclude that boosting vitamin D levels with supplements would make them less vulnerable.

A new study shows, however, that high-dose vitamin D supplements don’t seem to prevent falls or broken bones. In fact, the groups getting the most vitamin D had more falls and injuries.

Boosting Vitamin D Was a Bust:

The research involved 200 Swiss seniors who were at least 70 years old at the beginning of the study. It lasted for one year, during which one group was given a monthly dose of 24,000 IU of vitamin D3. This was the low dose, since 24,000 IU in 30 days works out to 800 IU per day, a dose that corresponds to the US Recommended Dietary Allowance.

Another group got the high-dose 60,000 IU of vitamin D3 once a month, and a third group got 24,000 IUs plus additional calcifediol, the active form of the vitamin D hormone. Both these groups were considered to be getting high dose supplementation.

Who Fell?

During the year about 60 percent of the volunteers took a tumble, but contrary to expectation, those in the low-dose vitamin D group were the least likely to fall. Fewer than half of them fell, compared to more than two-thirds of those in each high-dose group.

The investigators concluded that their results support low-dose vitamin D supplementation, but could not determine that even low-dose vitamin D supplements are better than placebo. We have further questions about the appropriateness of monthly doses compared to daily doses of vitamin D. All the same, another recent study did not show that people taking daily vitamin D supplements were less likely to fall or injure themselves.

JAMA Internal Medicine, Jan. 4, 2016

To learn more about vitamin D and supplementation, you may wish to read our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I upped my vitD to 5,000 and take it 5x a week with a K2 tab. I feel it does help. I increased magnesium too (as I have bone loss), and I no longer have tingling in my big toe. The MD said tingling was from my lower back issues!

For the bones I also take strontium citrate, balsam (has silica), and hyaluronic acid. I do eat dairy for calcium. I heard about strontium as a Canadian lady said she takes strontium raleate and calcitonin for bone loss. They do not use dangerous biphosphenates (Actonel, Fosamax, Boniva). I will start searching herbs too for any benefits. When I went in for a bone xray test, the results showed improvement. (hips).

Perhaps the group taking the higher dose – that fell more – were feeling well and attempting to do far more than they would have normally even tried!

I take 20-25,000 units a day. I KNOW it helps me tremendously! I have far less pain in my legs than I did before starting this. Because of less pain, I DO try to do more than I could before I started this. I haven’t fallen – Thank the Lord… but realize I could.

Research should be done to find out how many elderly were wearing “non-slip” and “slipper socks”, etc., when they fell. We all tend to drag our feet as we get older. Non-slip soles “grab” the floor and can cause a stumble.!

Those non-slip rubber sole shoes can be dangerous when one has a tendency to drag their feet. I was unaware that I was dragging my left foot until I had tripped several times. After getting an MRI for a fall that caused a concussion I was shocked to learn that I had had a series of strokes. The doctor said strokes are quite common. Strokes , which like me, you may not be aware of are possibly the reason for the dragging of the feet, frequent falls and loss of balance.

according to “Perfect Health Diet” (p. 277), too much vitamin D without enough Vitamin K2 leads to Vit D toxicity/Vit K2 deficiency, which induces bone loss, among other symptoms. Not sure if this was a factor in the outcome of the study or what Vit K2 levels were for participants.

7 reasons why the study was probably invalid– Jan 2016

I think older people fall more because their energy level is lower and they don’t pick up their feet as high as is best . To turn and other movements one
has to put one’s foot in back and shift weight. To catch a fall one has to move
very quickly and have enough muscle to catch one’s elf. Vitamin D helps bones be sounder and keep from breaking. I don’t know if it helps muscle
work better.

Personally, I’ll wait for the raw data on this one, because the research (and report on it) misses the point about why we should be concerned about falls in old age: namely, serious injuries leading to hospitalizations, having to spend weeks or months in a long term aftercare facility, and hospital acquired infections/pneumonia due to post-fall debilitation.

IF high dose vitamin D results in falls involving those types of serious outcomes, that would be another thing, but the article mentions NOTHING about that – in other words they want us to ASSUME that correlation. What if those on high dose were more mobile because they felt better, so they had more falls and injuries from which they quickly recovered with no long term consequences and the low dose folks had less falls, but the ones they had seriously harmed or killed them? I know which group I’d rather be in.
Is it possible that serious outcomes were not even an endpoint in the research? What would be the point of the research if they limited themselves to just the number of falls, regardless if there was injury at all, or how serious it was?

There is research going on in England right now about how reported conclusions veer off of original designated research endpoints, skewing statistics and results. So far, out of 62 trials examined since November, only 9 of them did what they stated they were going to do.

Journals are supposed to double check that before publishing, but that is rarely happening, allowing corrupted or cherry-picked research results to be published on an ongoing basis. In those trials checked so far, over 300 original endpoints were not reported on, and over 300 altered endpoints were reported.

If this is in happening in the US also (no reason to believe its not,) should researchers getting taxpayer funded grants for projects originally approved to find certain information who not really using to funds to report on the grant-designated information be eligible for tax funded grants a second/third/fourth time?

As this study took place in a country that’s covered with ice & snow. Wondering if this venue is a ‘fair’ place to make these conclusions.

I am confused, everything that is ever mentioned contradicts what is originally mentioned.

Almost. The original studies found problems among people with low levels of vitamin D. This study found that supplements don’t reverse those problems, so they don’t seem to be an effective intervention. Just very subtly different.

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