High-dose vitamin D supplementation helps slash risk of falls among elderly

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

High-dose vitamin D supplementation helps slash risk of falls among elderly

Related tags Vitamin d supplementation Vitamin d

A combination of low-frequency exercise and high-dose vitamin D supplementation could help reduce risk of falls in the elderly by more than 70%, a new trial suggests.

The findings, reported in the International Journal of Gerontology, ​show that an intervention combining low-frequency exercise and vitamin D supplementation was effective in reducing falls among institutionalised frail elderly individuals. 

“Falls are a serious problem among frail elderly and their prevention is an important health concern,”​ wrote the authors – led by Masakazu Imaoka from Osaka Prefecture University in Japan. “We compared the frequency of falls among institutionalised frail elderly residents following different interventions: low-frequency exercise, vitamin D supplementation, and a combination of both.”

Imaoka and colleagues found that while the incidence of falls for those in the control group corresponded to a 28% risk (0.28 hazard ratio), those given supplementation with a combined 900 international units (IU) per day plus light exercise saw risk reduce to just 8% (0.08 hazard ratio).

“Whereas falls decreased by 52.5% in the low-exercise group and by 42.5% in the nutrition group, the group receiving both of these interventions saw a significant 72.4% reduction in falls compared to controls,”​ the Japanese team reported.

“This suggests that strategies to prevent falls among institutional elderly residents should include a regulated program of low-frequency exercise and a liberal amount of vitamin D in the diet,”​ they said.

The trial was funded by a grant from Nestle Health Science, Japan, however the authors noted that the sponsor had no role in the study design, conduct of the study, data collection, data interpretation or, preparation of the report.

Clear benefit

A total of 91 participants, all of whom were residents in an institution for frail elderly, were randomly assigned to one of four conditions, said the team. These included: (1) a control group provided three sessions per week of individualized exercise and usual care, (2) a low-exercise group provided with two sessions of individualized exercise per week, (3) a supplementation group given oral vitamin D (900 IU/day), and (4) the combined group who performed low-level exercise and received vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D supplementation consisted of an Isocal jelly PCF (500 IU) eaten at lunch time in addition to a supplement (400 IU) taken after dinner.

Imaoka and colleagues commented that analysis showed “a clear benefit”​ in the groups that received supplementation with vitamin D.

“Our multifactorial intervention combining low-frequency exercise and vitamin D supplementation was the most effective at preventing falls,”​ the authors reiterated.

“Reducing falls will prolong the disability-free life expectancy of these individuals, which, in turn, will reduce the costs of medical and nursing care,”​ they said.

Source: International Journal of Gerontology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.ijge.2016.02.005
“Low-frequency Exercise and Vitamin D Supplementation Reduce Falls Among Institutionalized Frail Elderly”
Authors: Masakazu Imaoka, et al

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