Vitamin D has been associated with healthy bones and a new study is giving researchers an idea of how much is needed to prevent fractures in an older person. 75% of fractures occur in people age 65 and older. The worldwide incidence of hip fractures is expected to increase by 240% among women and 310% among men by 2050.
Vitamin D supplementation is a highly touted method to prevent fractures. During the study, researchers measured the effects of Vitamin D supplementation according to each subject’s actual intake. The researchers compiled data from 11 double-blind, randomized control trials of vitamin D supplementation in people 65 or older daily, weekly or every four months — with or without calcium — as compared with placebo or calcium alone.
The study included 31,022 people. The average age of the subjects was 76. 91% of the study’s participants were women. The study counted 1,111 hip fractures (4% of participants) and 3,770 non-vertebral fractures (12%).
The study concluded vitamin D supplementation at high doses “was somewhat favourable” in preventing fractures. The study suggests 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily may reduce the risk of hip and bone fractures. Taking 800 IU of Vitamin D or more daily decreased the risk of hip fracture by 30% and the risk of other bone fractures by 14%.
The study also found that taking less than 800 IU daily, with or without calcium, had no effect on bone-fracture risk when compared with taking a placebo or a calcium supplement alone. Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari of the Center on Aging and Mobility at the University of Zurich says the study could have major public health implications. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
Dr. Robert P. Heaney, M.D., professor of endocrinology at Creighton University, said there is no shortage of studies probing the benefits of vitamin D, but the latest findings may help explain why previous studies have produced conflicting results. He said, “There has been more ink spilled over the efficacy of vitamin D than over that of most nutrients, with the possible exception of sodium. All of the problems with previous studies come from a very modest dose of vitamin D. If you don’t give [study subjects] enough of the vitamin D, then you won’t see an effect.” He added, “It would appear to be prudent, and probably helpful as well, to ensure an intake at the upper end of the range,” given the latest findings.