Vitamin D supplements provide no benefit on low extremity function and raise the risk of falling for patients 70 or older, according to a clinical trial published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The results of the randomized trial are contrary to the general notion — although not proven by data — that vitamin D supplements can possibly prevent functional decline. This new study, by researchers at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, divided 200 men and women 70 and older into three different groups, based on their vitamin D dosage. Each participant also had a record of fall in the year prior to the study. The study measured reported falls, lower extremity function improvement, and whether patients achieved  25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of at least 30ng/mL at six and 12 months.

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Sixty-seven of the participants received 24,000 IU of vitamin D3 per month, 67 received 60,000 IU of vitamin D3 per month, and a third group of 66 received 2,400 IU of vitamin D3 plus calcifediol per month. These dosages were administered for a full year. Of these participants, 58 had vitamin D deficiency at baseline.

Results showed that instead of reducing falls, the groups that received 60,000 IU and 24,000 IU plus calcifediol had a higher percentage of people who fell (66.9%) when compared with the 24 000 IU group (47.9%). There was also a higher average in the number of falls in the 60,000 IU group and the 24,000 IU plus calcifediol group, than the 24,000 IU group (1.47 and 1.24, respectively vs. 0.94).  While patients in the 60,000 IU and 24,000 IU plus calcifediol groups were more likely to have 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of at least 30ng/mL, this did not result in any benefit on lower extremity function.

For more information visit JAMA.