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Vitamin D May Reduce Bone Fracture Risk in Older Adults

According to a study published in the March 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, daily vitamin D supplements may significantly cut the risk of fractures for older adults.

Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland looked at the results of 12 previous double-blind randomized controlled trials. They pooled the data pertaining to oral vitamin D supplementation from the 12 trials, which included over 40,000 participants aged 65 or older.

The data showed that vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 14 per cent decrease in the risk of non-vertebral fractures and a 9 per cent decrease in the risk of hip fractures.

When the researchers narrowed the data down to only the 9 trials using doses of vitamin D over 400 IU per day, the reduction in non-vertebral fractures and hip fractures jumped to 20 and 18%, respectively.

Beyond bone health, vitamin D has been associated with a number of other benefits.  It has been shown to help lower blood pressure, increase calcium absorption, stimulate the immune system, regulate cell growth and protect against certain cancers.

This study extends the long list of benefits derived from vitamin D and provides further evidence that many people, particularly older adults, can use vitamin D supplementation to maintain their health.

The traditional way to increase vitamin D intake is through increased exposure to the sun. This can prove difficult as you age because your skin becomes less efficient at synthesizing the vitamin.  For those living in areas that don't get a lot of sun it can be even more difficult to get sufficient levels of vitamin D naturally.

Even if you live in an area that gets plenty of sun year-round, increased exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. A safe alternative may be to take a high quality supplement, or consume more foods fortified with vitamin D.  Fish, milk products and many cereals either contain vitamin D naturally, or are fortified with the vitamin.
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