Vitamin D supplementation for the elderly who are homebound may help reduce the number of falls, according to new research. Study findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Elderly patients who are homebound are vulnerable to poor dietary intake, nutrition-related health conditions, decreased exposure to sunlight, and an increased risk for insufficient vitamin D levels, which can lead to more falls. Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist conducted a five-month, single-blind randomized trial of 68 participants in the Meals-on-Wheels program in Forsyth County, NC. Participants were given either a monthly vitamin D supplement of 100,000 IU or placebo delivered with their meal. The study assessed participants’ history of falls, fear of falling, blood tests at the start and end of trial to measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and a monthly diary to record falls during the study duration.

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At baseline, over half of the study participants had inadequate concentrations of vitamin D (<20ng/mL) with less than a quarter having optimal concentrations (≥30ng/mL). Vitamin D levels improved from insufficient to sufficient levels in all but 1 of the 34 participants that received it, and improved to optimal levels in all but five participants. Also, those that received vitamin D supplementation experienced about half the falls of those in the control group.

Study authors noted that a larger trial is needed to confirm these initial findings. A clinical trial is currently underway to determine how vitamin D impacts risk factors for falls (eg, balance, muscle strength, power).

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