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Vitamin D Pills Cut Bone Fracture Risk

Report: Taking Vitamin D Supplements Helps Seniors Avoid Bone Fractures, but Dosage Matters
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 24, 2009 -- A daily dose of vitamin D supplements may cut the chance of bone fractures in people 65 and older -- provided the dose is high enough.

That news comes from a research review published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The review shows that bone fractures not involving the spine were 20% less likely and hip fractures were 18% less likely among seniors taking more than 400 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D.

"I like what I see in this paper," says J. Edward Puzas, PhD, the Donald and Mary Clark Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Puzas, who didn't work on the research review, says he isn't surprised to see that vitamin D supplements helped bones, even after age 65.

"Your bone health is important your entire life," Puzas says.

About Vitamin D

The body makes vitamin D when exposed to sufficient sunlight. But aging makes that process harder. People living in northern latitudes are also at a disadvantage when it comes to making vitamin D; so are people with dark skin.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and bone cells have vitamin D receptors, Puzas says.

Those bone cells "do respond to vitamin D by stimulating their activity and generally increasing overall bone health," says Puzas, adding that "bone density is higher [and] fractures are lower in patients with adequate amounts of vitamin D."

According to current standards set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), adequate daily intake of vitamin D is 200 IU per day for children up to age 13, 200 IU per day for men and women aged 14-50, 400 IU per day for men and women aged 51-70, and 600 IU per day for men and women aged 71 and older.

But many experts say those levels are too low.

In October 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommended daily intake of vitamin D for children and teens to 400 IU per day. And the IOM has formed a committee to review adequate intake levels of vitamin D.

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