September 01, 2018

Vitamin D doesn't reduce fall risk

For years, vitamin D was touted for its role in preventing falls in older adults. However, recent evidence suggests otherwise, resulting in a change in advice from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

A summary of the scientific evidence that prompted the change was published in the April 24, 2018, issue of JAMA. This review of clinical trials focused on common fall prevention strategies, including seven studies on vitamin D supplementation and exercise. The findings on vitamin D were mixed. One study showed a reduction in falls for people taking vitamin D, but five studies showed no significant difference in falls. The remaining study, which involved people receiving high doses of vitamin D yearly, actually showed an increase in falls.

Based on these results, the USPSTF issued a change from its 2012 recommendation. The task force now recommends against vitamin D supplementation to prevent falls for those 65 and older. In addition, based on supportive evidence in its review, the USPSTF continues to recommend exercise for reducing falls.

For people who have osteoporosis or a vitamin D deficiency, vitamin D supplementation — alone or often paired with calcium — may be an important part of a treatment plan. Your doctor may still advise that you take these supplements based on your lifestyle and individual risk factors.

Ongoing studies are expected to provide better clarity in the coming year on the role of vitamin D supplementation and health. In the meantime, Mayo Clinic experts agree on the clear benefits from regular physical activity.