Much controversy exists around the contention that vitamin D helps prevent falls.
The United States Preventative Task Service Force says it does and that all elderly women should take Vitamin D
Now, a group of scientists from Brazil aimed to determine if vitamin D prevented falls in older women and if it improved balance.
Cangussu LM, Nahas-Neto J, Orsatti CL, Poloni PF, Schmitt EB, Almeida-Filho B, Nahas EA.Effect of isolated vitamin D supplementation on the rate of falls and postural balance in postmenopausal women fallers: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Menopause. 2015 Nov 2.
The researchers studied 160 women aged 45 to 65 who were frequent fallers in an intention to treat analysis. The average baseline vitamin D status of both groups was in the mid-teens. The researchers gave 80 women 1,000 IU/day of vitamin D and the other 80 received a placebo pill. After nine months, the vitamin D group’s levels increased to 28 ng/ml and the placebo group fell to 14 ng/ml.
After the duration of the study, there were 37 falls in the placebo group but only 19 falls in the treatment group. (P= 0.0028). So, the occurrence of falls was 46.3% higher in the placebo group. The placebo group was 1.95 times more likely to fall and 2.80 times more likely to experience recurrent falls compared to the vitamin D group (P< 0.001). There were also reductions in body sway with lower amplitude of anterior-posterior (35.5%) and lateral-lateral (37.0%) oscillation, in the vitamin D group (P< 0.001).
There are about six meta-analyses of vitamin D and falls; half showing it helps and half showing it does not. But this study satisfied most of Professor Robert Heaney’s suggestions for a high quality vitamin D randomized controlled trial: 1) The women were frequent fallers (they were tested for the condition); 2) baseline 25(OH)D levels were low, 3) a substantial dose of vitamin D was used; 5) After nine months, blood tests confirmed the vitamin D group experienced a substantial increase in 25(OH)D levels, while the placebo group did not; 6) a corollary test was performed (balance) that agreed with the primary end point. The only thing the researchers didn’t do was administer vitamin D co-factors (magnesium, zinc, boron and vitamin K), but very few if any studies do that.
Due to the strong study design that adhered to Dr. Robert Heaney’s criteria, this study makes a promising case for the role of vitamin D in the prevention of falls. More conclusive evidence would likely be found in vitamin D studies if vitamin D researchers started following Robert Heaney’s advice.