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Vitamin D supplementation may decrease falls in the elderly

PainSci » bibliography » Bischoff-Ferrari et al 2009
Tags: chronic pain, muscle pain, etiology, treatment, nutrition, self-treatment, vitamin D, pain problems, muscle, pro

Two articles on PainSci cite Bischoff-Ferrari 2009: 1. The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain2. Vitamin D for Pain

PainSci notes on Bischoff-Ferrari 2009:

Can taking vitamin D prevent falls? Apparently so: these researchers set out to “test the efficacy of supplemental vitamin D … in preventing falls among older individuals” and found that a “high dose” (700-1000 IU a day) actually reduced falling by a whopping 19%. That’s quite a substantial effect! It’s also a rare example of research actually confirming that vitamin supplementation does something helpful — most similar research in the last decade has come up quite empty-handed.

More to the point for how does vitamin D reduce falls? The authors explain: “Vitamin D has direct effects on muscle strength modulated by specific vitamin D receptors present in human muscle tissue.” Muscles like vitamin D, and “these benefits translated into a reduction in falls.”


original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVE: To test the efficacy of supplemental vitamin D and active forms of vitamin D with or without calcium in preventing falls among older individuals.

DATA SOURCES: We searched Medline, the Cochrane central register of controlled trials, BIOSIS, and Embase up to August 2008 for relevant articles. Further studies were identified by consulting clinical experts, bibliographies, and abstracts. We contacted authors for additional data when necessary. Review methods Only double blind randomised controlled trials of older individuals (mean age 65 years or older) receiving a defined oral dose of supplemental vitamin D (vitamin D(3) (cholecalciferol) or vitamin D(2) (ergocalciferol)) or an active form of vitamin D (1alpha-hydroxyvitamin D(3) (1alpha-hydroxycalciferol) or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol)) and with sufficiently specified fall assessment were considered for inclusion.

RESULTS: Eight randomised controlled trials (n=2426) of supplemental vitamin D met our inclusion criteria. Heterogeneity among trials was observed for dose of vitamin D (700-1000 IU/day v 200-600 IU/day; P=0.02) and achieved 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3) concentration (25(OH)D concentration: <60 nmol/l v >or=60 nmol/l; P=0.005). High dose supplemental vitamin D reduced fall risk by 19% (pooled relative risk (RR) 0.81, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.92; n=1921 from seven trials), whereas achieved serum 25(OH)D concentrations of 60 nmol/l or more resulted in a 23% fall reduction (pooled RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.65 to 0.90). Falls were not notably reduced by low dose supplemental vitamin D (pooled RR 1.10, 95% CI 0.89 to 1.35; n=505 from two trials) or by achieved serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations of less than 60 nmol/l (pooled RR 1.35, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.84). Two randomised controlled trials (n=624) of active forms of vitamin D met our inclusion criteria. Active forms of vitamin D reduced fall risk by 22% (pooled RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.94).

CONCLUSIONS: Supplemental vitamin D in a dose of 700-1000 IU a day reduced the risk of falling among older individuals by 19% and to a similar degree as active forms of vitamin D. Doses of supplemental vitamin D of less than 700 IU or serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations of less than 60 nmol/l may not reduce the risk of falling among older individuals.

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