Vitamin D Supplements Fails to Strengthen Bones of People Above 70

According to new research, those elderly who are above 70 and are taking vitamin D supplements for preventing bone diseases and reducing softening of bones is of no use. The doctors often prescribe the elderly to take prescribed vitamin D pills to maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. However, the new study led by Newcastle University and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has kicked off the previous researches by revealing that there is no benefit of taking vitamin D supplements after you age 70.

In the study researchers randomly selected 400 older people aging 70 or above and then divided them into the three categories on the basis of different doses of vitamin D which was decided to be given once every month for a year. The doses were of 300 µg, 600 µg and 1200 µg which is equivalent to 10 µg, 20 µg, and 40 µg every day respectively. The study was funded by Versus Arthritis.

The main target of the study was to observe the effect in these people of the intake of vitamin D supplementation on the bone mineral density (BMD). BMD in simple words can be defined as the measurement of the bone minerals present in the bone tissues; it acts as an indicator for the bone strength.

As per the analysis of the study, no distinct difference was found between the results at the end of the 12 month period. However, the study found that a dose of 40 µg was somehow beneficial as compared to other high doses of vitamin D in older people. The 1200 µg showed a positive result on bone metabolism.

The researcher Dr. Terry Aspray led the study of “Vitamin D supplementation in older people” (VDOP). He is an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine, who is also assisted by the NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre. “Vitamin D deficiency is common in older people, and it may lead to bone loss, impairment of muscle function and an increased risk of falls and fractures,” says Dr. Terry.

“The results from previous studies assessing the effect of vitamin D on bone mineral density have yielded conflicting results, and our study is a significant contribution to the current debate. While our findings do not support evidence of the benefit of high dose vitamin D supplements, at least on bone mineral density, we do, however, identify that higher doses of the vitamin may have beneficial effects on bone metabolism and that they are safe for older people.”

“I would suggest that older people should focus on maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, adequate sun exposure and take regular exercise to keep their bones as strong as possible. While some may need to take vitamin D supplements, there is little benefit to taking more than 10 µg a day.”

Further research is still under process including a Ph.D. student from the Newcastle University who is observing the influence of sun exposure on the elderly vitamin D levels as well the effect of vitamin D supplements on their muscle strengthening. Other researchers are eager to know the link between genes, kidney function, and vitamin D levels. Furthermore, they are also working on the functions of vitamin D in the blood.

Benjamin Ellis, Versus Arthritis Senior Clinical Policy Adviser, said: “Older people are at increased risk of falls and fractures, which are debilitating and erode people’s self-confidence, depriving them of their independence. Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones and muscles. People who are deficient in vitamin D are at increased risk of falls and fractures. In the summer months, Vitamin D is manufactured by the body when sunlight falls on the skin. We can also get vitamin D from certain foods, or dietary supplements.”

“Over the one year of this study, higher doses of vitamin D neither improved measures of bone strength nor reduced falls among older people. The current guidance is still that people at risk of low vitamin D should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement, as should everyone during the winter months. Work is needed to implement effective strategies to prevent falls and fractures among older people, and to understand the role of medications and dietary supplements in this.”

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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