Vitamin D reduces respiratory infections but may increase falls for older adults – OnMedica

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 06 January 2017

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Giving elderly people living in residential care monthly supplements of high dose vitamin D reduces their risk of respiratory infections, but appears to make them more susceptible to falls, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

People aged over 65, particularly those living in residential care, are at higher risk of acute respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza, or pneumonia, which can lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

Strengthening older adults’ immunity could be one way to reduce their chances of contracting respiratory infections, and as vitamin D plays an important role in immunity, researchers decided to test whether high monthly doses of vitamin D could lessen the number of respiratory infections experienced by older adults living in long-term care facilities.

The study included 107 adults, aged 60 and older, who lived in long-term care facilities in Colorado. The participants, who were already taking zero to 1,000 International Units per day of vitamin D, were randomised to an additional dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D once a month or usual care.

The researchers counted the number of acute respiratory infections needing medical attention (common colds, sinusitis, middle ear infections, acute bronchitis, influenza, and pneumonia) that participants experienced during the study’s 12-month follow-up period. They also counted falls, fractures, kidney stones, hospitalizations, and deaths during the study period.

The results showed that participants in the high-dose vitamin D group had 40% fewer respiratory infections during the 12-month follow-up period compared to people who received usual care. However, the people who received high-dose vitamin D had more than twice the number of falls compared to those who received usual care.

The researchers concluded that a monthly high dose of vitamin D reduced the number of respiratory infections in older adults but increased the number of falls they experienced. Despite the falls, there was no increase in bone fractures in the group that received high-dose vitamin D.

The researchers said that more research is needed to see whether daily (rather than monthly) dosing with high levels of vitamin D could help protect older adults from respiratory infections and minimize the risk of falls.

* Adit A et al. High-Dose Monthly Vitamin D for Prevention of Acute Respiratory Infection in Older Long-Term Care Residents: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Published first  16 November 2016 DOI10.1111/jgs.14679


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