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Vitamin D Helps Elderly Avoid Fractures

Works Even When Taken Three Times a Year
WebMD Health News

Feb. 27, 2003 -- Preventing broken bones as you age could be as easy as popping a vitamin D pill just three times a year.

It's especially important to prevent bone thinning and fractures in the elderly. In fact, breaking the hip can even cause death in many elderly people -- due to an increase in pneumonia or blood clots from being immobilized in bed.

Prior studies have shown that a combination of vitamin D and calcium can reduce fractures. But researchers in a new study wanted to see if vitamin D alone would have the same effect. The study is published in the March issue of the British Medical Journal.

Researchers studied more than 2,500 people 65 to 85 years old. Each took 100,000 IU of vitamin D -- a high dose compared with the normal dose of 400 IU -- or a placebo every four months.

People who took vitamin D were 22% less likely to have a fracture during the five-year study. They were also 33% less likely to have a fracture in areas of the body that are commonly affected by osteoporosis (hip, wrist, forearm, and vertebrae).

There were no side effects of vitamin D and the cost was nominal -- $1.59 a year. If future research confirms that vitamin D is effective at preventing fractures, even when taken only a few times a year -- this could be a welcome addition to staving off osteoporosis and the potentially serious health effects of this disease.

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