Vitamin D has many benefits to health. Musculoskeletal problems are more common in those with vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency. This includes osteoporosis, an increased risk of fractures, an increase risk of falls and reduced muscle function.
Osteoporosis affects a large percentage of nursing home residents. Osteoporosis is a bone disease associated with low bone mass and an increased risk of fracture. Ten million Americans are afflicted with Oz Vitamins Better Weight Supplement osteoporosis while 34 million are afflicted with osteopenia. It is estimated that 70 to 85 percent of individuals who live in a nursing home have osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is associated with inadequate calcium intake, but vitamin D helps with calcium absorption. Long-term vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of osteoporosis2. Vitamin D may prevent osteoporosis in older adults who are non-ambulatory, those on chronic steroids and for post-menopausal women.
Vitamin D supplementation has the potential to increase bone density. In one study there was an increase in the density of lumbar spine and the femoral neck bone with vitamin D supplementation of 50,000 international units twice a week for five weeks in those who were vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D and calcium together reduce fractures in institutionalized older adults, but vitamin D alone is not effective in reducing the risk of falls or fractures. Those over the age of 65 with low vitamin D levels are at increased risk for hip fractures and reduced muscle mass and strength.
Vitamin D has the potential to reduce the risk of falls. It potentially does this through the improvement of muscle function. Low levels of vitamin D in the blood are linked to the poorest muscle function and higher levels are linked to better muscle function. Those with a low baseline level of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration (between 10-20 ng/ml) are likely to benefit the most in regards to muscle strength when supplemented with vitamin D.
When vitamin D supplementation is consumed in doses of 700 to 1000 international units per day the risk of falls are reduced. When 500,000 units of cholecalciferol were given once annually the risk of falls was actually increased.