How can vitamin D help prevent falls and bone fractures?

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD
Internal Medicine
One of vitamin D's most important and best-known roles is to signal the intestines to absorb calcium into the bloodstream. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body will break down bone to get the calcium it needs -- no matter how much calcium you consume through food and supplements. There is strong evidence supporting adequate vitamin D intake to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. One in five people dies within a year of experiencing a hip fracture, which is nearly always the result of a fall. Vitamin D helps not only by building bone strength but also by shoring up muscles, which lessens a person's chances of falling.

One study pooled results from 12 randomized controlled trials involving more than 19,000 people older than 60 and found that 700 to 800 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily cut the risk of hip and other nonvertebral fractures by about a quarter, compared with calcium supplementation alone or placebo.

Inadequate vitamin D levels lead to muscle weakness, and getting enough can improve muscle function. A study of nursing home residents found that, over a five-month period, people who took 800 IU of supplemental vitamin D per day were 72% less likely to fall, and fell less often, compared with people who took a placebo. Lower doses of vitamin D did not offer the same protective effect.

Continue Learning about Vitamin D

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.