Study: Vitamin D Supplements Carry No Benefit To Seniors

NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom — If you’re well into your senior years, don’t worry so much about the vitamin D supplements. A study by researchers at the University of Newcastle found that taking these supplements actually provides little to no nutritional or health benefits to individuals over 70.

You’ve likely heard from various health professionals that taking daily vitamin D supplements will help improve bone strength, reducing the chances of taking a spill for older adults. Some claim seniors should take the supplements to keep their teeth and muscles healthy — but it turns out that may be nothing more than speculation, doctors warn.

For their study, researchers gave 379 people, all over 70, one of three doses of vitamin D — either 300, 600, or 1200 micrograms (µg) — once a month for a year. The supplements were equal to someone taking either 10 µg, 20 µg or 40 µg of the vitamin daily, respectively.  Researchers measured the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the change in bone mineral density (BMD), which indicates overall bone strength and changes in bone metabolism markers.

The study’s findings showed there was no change in the participants’ BMD over the one-year study period between the three dosages. They also found that 40 µg of vitamin D supplements are safe for older people and they did see a positive effect on bone metabolism up to the highest dose.

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“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,” explains research leader Dr. Terry Aspray, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine, in a media release. “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.”

Dr. Aspray is quick to warn seniors from stopping vitamin D supplement intake altogether. “While some may need to take vitamin D supplements, there is little benefit to taking more than 10 µg a day,” he says. “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.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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