Vitamin D supplementation improves neuromuscular function in older people who fall

J K Dhesi, S H D Jackson, L M Bearne, C Moniz, M V Hurley, C G Swift, T J Allain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

329 Citations (Scopus)


Background: vitamin D supplementation reduces the incidence of fractures in older adults. This may be partly mediated by effects of vitamin D on neuromuscular function. Objective: to determine the effects of vitamin D supplementation on aspects of neuromuscular function known to be risk factors for falls and fractures. Design: randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Setting: falls clinic taking referrals from general practitioners and accident and emergency department. Subjects: 139 ambulatory subjects (greater than or equal to65 years) with a history of falls and 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) less than or equal to12 mug/l. Intervention: patients were randomised to receive a single intramuscular injection of 600,000 i.u. ergocalciferol or placebo. Outcome measures: assessments including biochemistry, postural sway, choice reaction time (CRT), aggregate functional performance time (AFPT), and quadriceps strength were carried out at baseline and 6 months post-intervention. Results: baseline characteristics were comparable between both groups. 25OHD in the treatment group increased significantly at 6 months. AFPT deteriorated in the control group and improved in the intervention group, representing a significant difference between groups (+6.6 s versus -2.0 s, t = 2.80, P <0.05). Similar changes were observed for CRT (-0.06 s versus +0.41 s, t = -2.52, P <0.01) and postural sway (+0.0025 versus -0.0138, t = 2.35, P <0.02). There was no significant difference in muscle strength change between groups (-10 N versus -2 N, t = -1.26, ns). A significant correlation between change in AFPT and change in 25OHD levels was observed (r = 0.19, P = 0.03). There was no significant difference in the number of falls (0.39 versus 0.24, t = 1.08, P = 0.28) or fallers (14 versus 11, P = 0.52) between two groups. Conclusions: vitamin D supplementation, in fallers with vitamin D insufficiency, has a significant beneficial effect on functional performance, reaction time and balance, but not muscle strength. This suggests that vitamin D supplementation improves neuromuscular or neuroprotective function, which may in part explain the mechanism whereby vitamin D reduces falls and fractures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589 - 595
Number of pages7
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004


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