Higher Vitamin D Intake Increases Risk of Falls in Elderly, Senior Adults: Study

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Jan 06, 2016 05:30 AM EST

WALSALL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: A pensioner holds his walking stick on September 8, 2014 in Walsall, England. Britain is facing multiple problems stemming from an increase in the elderly proportion of its population, including increasing health care costs, strains on its social security system, a shortage of senior care workers and challenges to the employment market. (Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A study reveals that too much vitamin D intake in senior adults and the elderly may actually increase falls and fractures.

Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, chair of geriatrics and aging research at the University Hospital Zurich, led the study to determine how much vitamin D is ideal for seniors who have bone problems. A report published online in JAMA Internal Medicine found that there is no benefit in getting higher vitamin D dosage among adults over the age of 70. It also found that too much vitamin D can increase the risk of falling which can subsequently lead to fractures among seniors as well.

"We expected that we would see more benefit by going to the higher doses of vitamin D," Dr. Bischoff-Ferrari said as reported by Time Magazine. "Contrary to expectations, we found that actually the lowest dose was the most advantageous for any of the outcomes we looked at."

For the study, two hundred participants at least aged 70 were divided into three groups. One received 24,000 IU of vitamin D3 per month, the second group received 60,000 IU monthly and the third received 24,000 IU and calcifediol. According to MedPage Today, the researchers found that seniors who belong in the 60,000 IU group had the highest incidence of falls and those in the 24,000 IU plus calcifediol group. However, those in the 24,000 IU only group had the lowest incidence of falls.

"High monthly doses of vitamin D or a combination with calcifediol may not be warranted in seniors with a prior fall because of a potentially deleterious effect on falls," the authors said. "Future research is needed to confirm our findings for daily dosing regimens."

Vitamin D is important for elderly or aging seniors because it helps the body absorb calcium to maintain or build bone strength. Deficiency of it may cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and even hip fractures, according to Parent Giving.

An accompanying editorial by Dr. Steven Cummings of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco and his colleagues states that vitamin D should be taken from various sources because there is little evidence that supplements can give the recommended dose. The experts suggest following the recommended daily allowance set by the Institute of Medicine that the elderly 70 years and above should have a daily intake of 800 IU of vitamin D from a nutritionally balanced meal.

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