March 24, 2009
Vitamin D Supplements Cut Bone Fractures In Elderly

Hey, time for another puff piece on the glories of vitamin D. Avoid broken bones in your dotage by taking pills.

Oral vitamin D supplements at a dose of at least 400 international units per day are associated with a reduced risk of bone fractures in older adults, according to results of a meta-analysis published in the March 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"The anti-fracture benefits of vitamin D have been questioned by several recent trials, leading to uncertainty among patients and physicians regarding recommendations for vitamin D supplementation," the authors write as background information in the article. "Factors that may obscure a benefit of vitamin D are low adherence to treatment, low dose of vitamin D or the use of less potent ergocalciferol (vitamin D2)."

Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, Dr.P.H., of the University of Zurich, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues performed a meta-analysis on 12 previously published clinical trials of oral vitamin D supplements among adults age 65 or older. These double-blind randomized controlled trials involved 42,279 participants (average age 78) and looked at non-vertebral (non-spinal) fractures, including eight trials of 40,886 participants specifically studying hip fractures.

Vitamin D at over 400 IU per day is needed for a benefit.

When the results of the trials were pooled, vitamin D supplements decreased the risk of non-vertebral fractures by 14 percent and of hip fractures by 9 percent. The authors then pooled the results of only the nine trials in which participants received doses of more than 400 international units per day. At this dosage, vitamin D supplements reduced non-vertebral fractures by 20 percent and hip fractures by 18 percent. Doses of 400 international units per day or lower did not reduce the risk of either fracture type. A greater reduction in risk was also seen among trial participants whose blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a commonly used measure of blood vitamin D levels) achieved a greater increase.

For people getting the most vitamin D additional calcium did not cut fracture risks. Vitamin D rules.

But blood levels of vitamin D are dropping. Is this a sign of a decay of civilization? Or just a coincidence?

Average blood levels of vitamin D appear to have decreased in the United States between 1994 and 2004, according to a report in the March 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Clinicians previously believed the major health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency were rickets in children and reduced bone mineral content in adults, conditions reduced by fortifying foods with vitamin D, according to background information in the article. More recently, insufficient vitamin D levels have been associated with cancer, heart disease, infection and suboptimal health overall. Evidence suggests that levels of 30 nanograms per milliliter to 40 nanograms per milliliter may be needed for optimum health

Even a 20% reduction in the incidence of fractures still leaves a lot of people crippled and dead sooner due to lack of physical activity. So we need stem cell therapies and other rejuvenation therapies for more fundamental solutions that address all the root causes.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 24 11:29 PM  Aging Diet Bone Studies

Jake said at March 25, 2009 6:00 AM:

400 units a day is a joke. I have never seen a person over 60 reach the optimum level of 70 without a daily dose of at least 6000 units. The ignorance of the medical profession about Vitamin D is astonishing.

Bill Quick said at March 25, 2009 1:24 PM:

Jake, I try to keep up on this stuff. Can you direct me to some cites for that "optimum level of 70 nanograms" claim?

momochan said at March 25, 2009 1:33 PM:

I'm curious as to why vitamin D levels have decreased in the population since the mid-nineties. I remember the mid-nineties and they were kinda like now -- only without the Internet. So, maybe people are hunched over their computers rather than out in the sunshine. Which describes me at this very moment...

Also, I wonder about the digestibility of vit. D supplements, particularly among seniors.

Jake said at March 25, 2009 3:52 PM:


First is the Vitamin D council recommendations.

Here is a post from the famed cardiologist William Davis:

You start to lose the ability to make Vitamin D from sunshine beginning at the age of 40. By the time you are 70, you lose the ability completely. The elderly can easily absorb Vitamin D from pills. They just have to be given the right dosage.

Bill Quick said at March 26, 2009 7:24 AM:

Thanks, Jake, especially for the indirect link to the home test. I've been taking about 3500 units per day, but I have several risk factors - I'm 63, I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

I'll definitely be checking, and then taking a dose sufficient to raise me over 70. I intend to live until we get some real and effective life extension techniques - bootstrap into the Singularity!

Vitamin D Deficiency said at June 30, 2009 11:23 AM:

Vitamin D is great for bone growth, but its better the younger you are, and harder to digest as you get older. Natural sunlight is the best but can lead to skin problems.

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