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For Every 15 Seniors on Vitamin D, 1 Fewer Falls

April 27, 2004 --- Elderly people fall less often if they take vitamin D.

That's the conclusion of Harvard and Tufts researchers who analyzed all major vitamin D clinical trials in older populations. The bottom line: Treating 15 seniors with vitamin D saves one potentially deadly fall.

It didn't seem to matter which kind of vitamin D a person took. However, daily doses of 700 IU to 800 IU seemed better than 400 IU doses.

The effect of vitamin D tended to be stronger in women than in men and in at least one study, vitamin D was less effective in people who weren't getting enough calcium (more than 512 milligrams per day).

Falls aren't funny for anybody, but they can be devastating to the elderly. One-third of people over age 65 -- and up to half of those over 80 -- suffer injuries from falls. It's the largest single cause of death by injury in older people.

The findings are published in the April 28 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Bischoff-Ferrari and colleagues suggest that vitamin D helps because it improves muscle function.

Vitamin D supplementation appears to reduce the risk of falls among older individuals with stable health by more than 20%, they write. "Further studies examining the effect of alternative types of vitamin D and their doses, the role of calcium supplementation, and effects in men should be considered."

SOURCE: Bischoff-Ferrari, H.A. The Journal of the American Medical Association, April 28, 2004; vol 291: pp 1999-2006.

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