Prevent Fractures From Falls With Vitamin D Supplementation
News reports have picked up the story about a recent meta-analysis on vitamin D, and headlines have read: “Vitamin D doesn’t aid the prevention of Osteoporosis.” A meta-analysis (Effects of vitamin D supplements on bone mineral density: a systematic review and meta-analysis) conducted by researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and published in The Lancet earlier this month looked at 23 vitamin D studies. The studies totaled 4,082 generally healthy people (92 percent female) with an average age of 59 years. Bone mineral/density was studied at one to five sites in each study, with the sites being lumbar spine, femoral neck, total hip, femur, total body or forearm. Participants took 500-800 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. Results of the meta-analysis showed a small benefit at the femoral neck in bone density, but no other areas. The lead author of the study, Dr. Ian R. Reid, said “for healthy people focused on osteoporosis prevention, vitamin D does not make a positive contribution.”
While this meta-analysis didn’t find vitamin D to be helpful in managing osteoporosis, the study doesn’t review vitamin D levels and the potential for falls. In May, 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended exercise or physical therapy and vitamin D supplementation to prevent falls in community dwelling adults 65 years or older who are at increased risk for falls.
Falls are the leading cause of injury in community dwelling adults 65 years or older, and 30-40 percent of adults 65 years or older fall at least once per year! Fractured bones are the result of approximately 5 percent of these falls, and two meta-analyses have found that vitamin D prevents fractures. Low vitamin D levels increases fracture risk. It has been estimated that as many as half of the older adults with hip fractures could have vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL. (Optimal vitamin D is 30-100 ng/mL; suboptimal is 20-29 ng/mL and lower than 20 ng/mL is insufficient. Dr. Cooper likes to see levels 40-60 ng/mL in patients.)
Adult Cooper Complete multivitamins contain 2,000 IU vitamin D, and a standalone 1,000 IU Vitamin D tablet for individuals who need higher supplementation to get to an appropriate level.
Since falling is such a risk for older adults, it makes sense to stay aware of vitamin D levels through an annual blood test and to supplement as appropriate to get levels where they need to be. In addition, as Dr. Cooper has long advocated, it makes sense to commit, at every stage of life, to move and exercise like your life depends on it.