January 14, 2008
Vitamin D2 Reduces Falling In Older Women?

Time for another study on the benefits of vitamin D. The D2 form of vitamin D appears to reduce the frequency of falls among older women.

Vitamin D2 supplements appear to reduce the risk of falls among women with a history of falling and low blood vitamin D levels living in sunny climates, especially during the winter, according to a report in the January 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Approximately one-third of women older than 65 years fall each year, and 6 percent sustain a fracture as a result of the fall,” the authors write as background information in the article. “In addition, fear of falling is a major problem in older people.”

Richard L. Prince, M.D., of the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands, Australia, and colleagues conducted a year-long clinical trial of 302 women age 70 to 90 years living in Perth, Australia. Because vitamin D is produced in response to sun exposure and the study was completed in a sunny climate, the researchers selected women with blood vitamin D levels below the median for the area (24 nanograms per milliliter). All participants had a history of falling in the previous year and received 1,000 milligrams of calcium citrate per day. Half were then randomly assigned to take either 1,000 international units of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and half took an identical placebo. Data on falls were collected from participants every six weeks.

Eighty women (53 percent) in the vitamin D2 group and 95 women (62.9 percent) in the control group fell at least once during the study period. After adjusting for height, which affected the risk of falling and was significantly different between the two groups, vitamin D2 therapy reduced the risk of having at least one fall by 19 percent. “When those who fell were grouped by the season of first fall or the number of falls they had, ergocalciferol treatment reduced the risk of having the first fall in winter and spring but not in summer and autumn, and reduced the risk of having one fall but not multiple falls,” the authors write.

There is the falling. But there are also the injuries sustained by the falling. There is the substantial possibility that the vitamin D supplementation will reduce the risks of bone breakage per fall as well as reducing the risk of falling in the first place.

These results imply that older folks are at greater risk of falling down in the fall and winter. Interesting.

“It is interesting that the ergocalciferol therapy effect was confined to those who were to sustain one fall but not those destined to have more than one fall,” the authors write. “Older people who fall frequently tend to have more risk factors for falling, including greater degrees of disability and poorer levels of physical function.” It is possible that chemically correcting vitamin D levels in the blood is insufficient to prevent falls in these individuals, they note. “Ergocalciferol, 1,000 international units per day, added to a high calcium intake is associated with 23 percent reduction of the risk of falling in winter/spring to the same level as in summer/autumn,” the authors conclude.

In the comments section of my post on the value of vitamin D as D2 or D3 a researcher from UCSD pointed out that the study in that post doesn't prove the stated conclusion of the study. Well, be aware that when reading these sorts of posts that we aren't necessarily seeing the critical reactions to the studies (though in that case we did). Still, enough of the benefits of vitamin D are well established that even if some of the theorized benefits don't hold up getting more of the nutrient looks like a big benefit for most people in industrialized societies.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 January 14 10:20 PM  Aging Diet Studies

Edward Hutchinson said at January 15, 2008 3:02 AM:

I think the problem with D2 arises from the stability of some supplies is not consistent and this means it can be unreliable in practice. See "Vitamin D2 Is Much Less Effective than Vitamin D3 in Humans" Laura A. G. Armas, Bruce W. Hollis and Robert P. Heaney
For most readers here the value for money consideration that D3 is always reliable and is generally far cheaper will be the significant factor.

Michael G.R. said at January 15, 2008 9:13 AM:

My understanding is that the medical world keeps pushing D2 instead of D3 because the process to extract D2 is patented, so they can sell it to you for $150/month instead of $3/month (or whatever D3 costs -- it's low).

homeboy said at January 25, 2008 1:10 PM:

I've been seeing all of the excitement about Vitamin D and have wondered what the down side is. I mentioned it to my doctor today, and he isn't recommending it because of some studies that showed higher mortality from heart disease. Is this credible? What are the trade-offs like? Is there an article on it that I missed?

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