Positive benefits with vitamin D supplements in elderly

Related tags Vitamin d supplements Vitamin d

A recent clinical review draws together the growing body of
evidence which points to the benefits for the elderly if they
maintain their vitamin D levels - notably, better muscle strength
and a lower risk from falls.

Elderly people lacking the required amounts of vitamin D and who risk fracturing bones from falls could benefit from taking the vitamin in supplement form, suggests a recent review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

Healthnotes newswire​, reporting on the article, highlights previous uncontrolled studies that have shown the link between prolonged vitamin D deficiency and muscle weakness, often leading to disability. Taking vitamin D supplements over a period of several weeks or months would correct such deficiencies, the author suggests.

A study on 349 elderly people who had poor muscle strength in their hands, were unable to climb stairs, and had recently fallen, found that blood levels of vitamin D were significantly lower compared with the levels in people without these problems.

Another study showed that six months of treatment with vitamin D in vitamin D-deficient elderly women improved knee strength and walking distance. However, there has been no evidence to suggest that vitamin D supplements improve muscle strength in those with normal vitamin D levels.

The high levels of vitamin D deficiency in older people are thought to result from a poor diet, lack of sunlight exposure, poor absorption by the intestines, or impairments in vitamin D metabolism due to liver or kidney disease. Lack of this vitamin in the body affects muscle tissue, leading to poor strength and coordination. The exact process leading to muscle deterioration remains unexplained however.

Although the journal review notes the need for further studies, it points to the considerable evidence so far which shows the benefits of vitamin D supplementation in high-risk groups, such as frail and homebound elderly people.This includes evidence for taking vitamin D and calcium supplements together, which appears to be better than when calcium is taken alone.

While there have also been studies which found vitamin D supplements to have no effect on lowering the incidence of falling, the journal review suggests that most of these trials tested healthy, older individuals who were not vitamin D-deficient, and therefore - based on the results of previous studies - not likely to show significant improvement with vitamin D supplementation.

The authors do not offer specific guidelines on supplement intake, but some doctors recommend taking 400 to 800 IU per day of supplemental vitamin D2.

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