Recently, researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus discovered high doses of vitamin D helped older, long-term care residents reduce the risk of acute respiratory illness (ARI).
Many physicians have long considered vitamin D to have a myriad of health benefits, recommending patients to take supplements or increase their intake of vitamin D-enriched foods. And, recently, researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus discovered high doses of vitamin D helped older, long-term care residents reduce the risk of acute respiratory illness (ARI).
Published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the results were especially relevant, as this discovery could help decrease one of the primary causes of debilitation and death among patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The study’s lead author, Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, said in a news release, “After studying these patients for a year, we found a 40% reduction in acute respiratory illness among those who took higher doses of vitamin D.”
To examine vitamin D’s impact on respiratory infections in nursing home residents, the team assessed 107 patients, whose age averaged 84 years, during a 12-month period. Of that group, 55 received high doses of vitamin D (100,000 units monthly or 3,300-4,300 units daily). The remaining 52 were administered standard doses averaging between 400-1,000 units daily. Members of the higher dosage group experienced an approximately 50% reduction in ARIs; however, they also had more than double the incidence of falls.
According to Ginde, vitamin D actually works to improve the immune system’s ability to fight infections, since it boosts the immune system’s first line of defense — something that is often impaired in geriatric patients. However, vitamin D can also potentially prevent illnesses like pneumonia, influenza, and bronchitis. Furthermore, higher vitamin D doses could prevent infections and aggravations of asthma, COPD, and emphysema.
While higher vitamin D doses did seemingly reduce the risk of ARI and other respiratory illness, experts cautioned, “This finding requires a confirmatory trial, including whether high daily doses of vitamin D, rather than high monthly doses, make patients less likely to fall.”
Regardless, this is an important discovery, allowing specialized treatment for the elderly in long-term care.