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Vitamin D Found to Reduce Age-Related Falls

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
October 5, 2004

Elderly people who get supplemental vitamin D in their diets have stronger muscles than those who don't, based on evidence from studies funded by the Agricultural Research Service.

The findings underscore the importance of getting adequate vitamin D for the prevention of falls among the elderly. An estimated one-third of people over age 65--and up to half of those over age 80--are injured in falls each year.

Bess 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, Mass., and is also a physician and nutrition specialist. She, along with colleagues in academia and medicine, researched the five major vitamin D clinical trials conducted with older populations during the last 43 years.

The researchers' analysis revealed that among more than 1,200 participants studied in controlled trials during those decades, elderly people fell down 22 percent less often if they took vitamin D supplements. The people studied averaged age 70, were in stable health, and were either community-dwelling or living in some type of care facility.

Falls lead to 40 percent of all nursing facility admissions and are the largest single cause of injury-related deaths among elderly. What's more, experts say fall-related injuries could account for an estimated $32 billion in future medical, hospital and rehabilitative care costs annually.

The analysis was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Read more about this research in the October issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.