Fall 2012

Fracture Prevention

New study finds that daily dose of vitamin D helps the elderly avoid injury

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Illustration: Phil Wrigglesworth

You’re going to need a bigger pill. A new study has found that daily vitamin D supplementation works to prevent fractures in the elderly, but only if taken at higher-than-recommended doses.

In their analysis, Tufts researchers studied data from 11 randomized trials—a total of 31,000 older adults—looking at vitamin D supplements and fractures. Then they divided subjects into quartiles ranging from zero to 2,000 International Units (IUs) of daily vitamin D intake and performed a meta-analysis. The study appeared recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Taking between 800 IUs and 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day significantly reduced the risk of most fractures, including hip, wrist and forearm in both men and women age 65 and older,” said Bess Dawson-Hughes, ’75, professor of medicine and director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. “Importantly, we saw there was no benefit to taking vitamin D supplements in doses below 800 IUs per day for fracture prevention.”

Current guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend that adults between ages 51 and 70 take 600 IUs of vitamin D daily and that adults over age 70 take 800 IUs.

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