High dose vitamin D could prevent fractures in elderly

According to nearly a dozen studies, a high dose of vitamin D can reduce the risk of hip fractures by 30 percent and other bone breaks by 14 percent. These results were achieved by taking a dose of 800 (IU), but a lower dose had no affect.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and also suggested that it was possible that more than 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium could reduce the benefits of high dose vitamin D.

One of the researchers, Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari of the University Hospital Zurich, told Reuters, “These hip fractures cost a lot and are a really serious event. They are usually the end of independent life for a senior person; 50 percent do not regain their mobility. Reducing the risk by 30 percent with just a vitamin supplement would be an enormous public health opportunity.”

Dr. Robert Heaney of Creighton University Medical Center said that the problem with prior conflicting studies concerning vitamin D might have been because the study participants’ vitamin D levels before the studies weren’t taken into account. Giving a vitamin D supplement to someone who already has enough or not administering enough to those with very low levels would show no benefit, Heaney suggested.

“In this regard, as in several other respects, nutrients are unlike drugs. Once an adequate concentration has been achieved, additional intake has no effect,” Heaney said.

The new analysis regarding vitamin D is based on 11 trials testing various regimens of oral vitamin D in people 65 and older against a placebo. Most of the study participants were women and some of the trials included calcium.

The results were 4,881 hip and other fractures among a sampling of more than 31,000 people. Vitamin D was not shown to cut hip fracture significantly across the board, but when the results for those taking the highest doses of vitamin D the benefits were seen.

Researchers said that the highest benefits were seen in nursing home settings where study participants were reminded by nurses to take their supplement daily.

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