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Vitamin D and aging

About one in three elderly living in their own home experience falls each year, and in many cases those falls lead to hospitalization and an end to their independence. To lower that risk, researchers are exploring an innovative strategy: increasing older adults’ vitamin D intake.

Among its many healthy benefits, vitamin D has been shown to boost muscle integrity, and knowing that most homebound elderly are deficient in this vitamin, Denise Houston, PhD, RD, and her research team at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center set out to learn whether adding vitamin D supplements to the diets of their study participants would decrease their chances of falling.

The 68 people who participated in the study received either an additional 100,000 international units of vitamin D or placebos each month as part of a local Meals on Wheels program. After five months, Houston and her team found that those who had received the supplementation reported about half the number of falls than the group receiving the placebos.

The results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

“Although these initial findings are encouraging,” Houston said in a statement released by the medical center, “we need to confirm the results in a larger trial.”

For more on the benefits of vitamin D, see “The Lowdown on Vitamin D” from our May 2011 issue.

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