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Vitamin D Supplements Fall Short on Preventing Falls

Neither high-dose nor low-dose vitamin D supplements were effective at preventing falls in a study of older women.

Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to muscle weakness and low bone mineral density that could put people at risk for broken bones. (We have written about these problems here.)

Do Vitamin D Supplements Make a Difference?

A new study of 230 postmenopausal women in Madison, Wisconsin, compared high and low-dose vitamin D supplements. The low-dose regimen was white pills daily, 800 IU of vitamin D3, and two yellow placebo pills each month. The high-dose regimen consisted of white placebo pills daily and two yellow vitamin D3 pills every month with 50,000 IU each. All the women had low blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (between 14 and 27 ng/ml).

The Consequences of Vitamin D Supplements:

Although high-dose supplementation was able to raise low serum levels of vitamin D to at least 30 ng/ml, neither regimen had any impact on measures of bone or muscle strength. More importantly, neither was better than placebo at preventing falls.

The reasonable conclusion is that vitamin D supplements are unlikely to keep women from suffering broken bones after menopause, when they may be most vulnerable. Weight-bearing exercise (ie, not swimming or cycling) is still considered key for preventing osteoporosis and maintaining muscle tone.

JAMA Internal Medicine, Oct, 2015

To learn more about vitamin D, consider our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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