Older adults who get supplemental vitamin D in their diets are less
likely to slip and fall down, according to an analysis by ARS-funded
scientists and their colleagues.
About one-third of people over age 65and up to half of those
over 80get injured from falling every year. What's more, such
falls lead to 40 percent of all nursing facility admissions and are
the largest single cause of injury-related deaths among the elderly.
Bess Dawson-Hughes, a physician specializing in bone health and nutrition,
along with colleagues in academia and medicine, researched all major
vitamin D clinical trials in older populations conducted from January
1960 to February 2004. Dawson-Hughes is director of the Bone Metabolism
Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on
Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Based on five double-blind, randomized, controlled trials involving
1,237 participants, the researchers found that elderly people fell 22
percent less often if they took vitamin D supplements. The folks studied,
who averaged about age 70, were in stable health and were either community
dwelling or living in some type of care facility.
Previously, it had been shown that vitamin D supplementation was good
for bone health and that very severe vitamin D deficiency led to muscle
weakness. But less was known about any association between milder vitamin
D deficiency and muscle weakness or risk of falling. When the activated
form of vitamin D binds to receptors in muscle tissue, it promotes growth
and strengthens muscles, which can in turn reduce falls, according to
Fall-related injuries are likely to account for more than $32 billion
in future medical-, hospital-, and rehabilitative-care costs annually,
experts say. The findings underscore the importance of adequate vitamin
D intake for the prevention of falls in the elderly and a need for further
related studies. The paper was published in the April 2004 issue of
the Journal of the American Medical Association.By Rosalie Marion Bliss,
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
is with the Bone Metabolism Laboratory, Jean
Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University,
711 Washington St., Boston, MA 02111-1524; phone (617) 556-3064, fax
"Dcreasing Elders' Slips and Falls" was
published in the October
2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.