Vitamin D alone may not reduce fracture risk in seniors

For seniors aged 65 years or older, taking daily vitamin D supplements alone will offer less protection against bone fractures than vitamin D with calcium, according to an updated review from The Cochrane Library.

Researchers evaluated 53 studies with 91,791 participants to determine if supplements with vitamin D alone or with additional calcium offered more protection against fractures in high-risk seniors.

Participants were given either vitamin D supplements including D2 and D3, vitamin D with calcium or a placebo.

The research found that supplements of vitamin D alone are unlikely to lower risk for older people, whereas supplements of vitamin D with calcium reduced the risk in nine of the studies.

Seniors living in high-risk environments such as nursing homes and hospitals, who took vitamin D with calcium experienced nine fewer hip fractures per 1,000 older adults per year. Low-risk seniors had one fewer hip fracture per 1,000 older adults per year.

Lead researcher Alison Avenell, MD, University of Aberdeen, UK, noted that those with kidney stones, kidney disease, high blood calcium levels, gastrointestinal disease or risk of heart disease should seek medical advice before taking supplements.

“I would only suggest calcium and vitamin D for fracture prophylaxis in very high risk populations, such as much older people in institutions such as nursing homes, who get no sunlight exposure at all,” Avenell said in a report from Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health. “Even then, the risk of side effects may outweigh any preventive effect. I would not suggest vitamin D alone.”                

For more information:

Avenell A. Cochrane Libr. 2014:doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000227.pub4.

Disclosure: There are no relevant financial disclosures.

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