Vitamin D Fails Fall-Prevention Test

Falls are a constant health threat for older people. A study in Finland looked at whether vitamin D supplements, exercise, or both could lessen the risk of falling for women ages 70 to 80. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that those at risk of falling should take vitamin D. A new study finds that does not help.

Falls are a constant health threat for older people. A study in Finland looked at whether vitamin D supplements, exercise, or both could lessen the risk of falling for women ages 70 to 80.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that those at risk of falling should take vitamin D.

A new study finds that may not help.

Reporting in JAMA Internal Medicine, Kirsti Uusi-Rasi PhD and colleagues at the UKK Institute for Health Promotion Research in Tampere Finland found no fall-prevention benefit to taking the vitamin.

They also found that exercise halved the incidence of serious falls—though not the overall risk of falling.

The researchers studied 409 women, all of whom lived at home rather than in institutions or assisted-living facilities.

The women were grouped into those who got placebo without exercise, vitamin D without exercise, placebo and exercise, or vitamin D and exercise. The exercise consisted of group classes focused on balance, weight training, agility improvement, and strength training.

They found vitamin D did help to maintain bone density in the femoral neckbones and shinbone.

The groups that got exercise had improved physical functioning.

“Given that the fall risk is multifactorial, exercise may be the most effective and feasible strategy for preventing injurious falls in community-dwelling older adults replete with vitamin D,” Uusi-Rasi wrote.

Commenting on the study, Eric leBlanc, MD, MPH of Kaiser-Permanente Northwest and Roger Chous, MD of Oregon Health & Science University, both in Portland, OR, wrote, “This trial reminds us that although vitmin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and higher levels are associated with better health in observational studies, more research is needed to understand the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation on clinical outcomes.” They also noted that the study’s subjects were all white women and so the results might not apply to a more diverse population.