All too often the popular remedy remains to pop a pill for what ails us. But taking a medicine is always a risk versus reward exercise; even under the best of circumstances. Supplements, particular natural supplements like vitamins and minerals, are often viewed as an easy fix with zero risk. In the annals of this blog I have shown the many times that has proven not to be true. Nonetheless, there has been a recent push within medical offices to replace vitamin D levels through various methods of addition.
Many follow-up studies have failed to show a benefit; leading speculation as to whether a low vitamin D level is a cause or simply a sign of various maladies. Now a new study looks at increasing vitamin D levels in elderly women versus exercise in reducing the rate and severity of falls. In The Fallacy of The Calorie: Why The Modern Western Diet is killing Us and How to Stop It, I discuss this topic and dietary considerations. Falls in the elderly are an important cause of morbidity and mortality. And those suffering from osteopenia and osteoporosis are at significantly increased risk of death from such a trauma.
A recent study published March 23 in JAMA: Internal Medicine examined the outcomes of intervening with exercise versus vitamin D. Neither exercise nor vitamin D affected the rate of falls in elderly women. In other words, neither exercise nor vitamin D made the likelihood of falling any less.
However, exercise was shown to reduce the number of falls requiring medical attention.
Over a two-year period, the researchers followed over 400 women 70 to 80 years old who lived at home. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four study groups: placebo without exercise; vitamin D (800 IU/d) without exercise; placebo and exercise; and vitamin D (800 IU/d) and exercise.
Over the ensuing two years vitamin D did maintain femoral neck bone density and increased tibial trabecular density slightly; it did slightly improve overall bone density. All the same, the supplement did not reduce the number of falls participants experienced. The severity of the falls was similarly unchanged. In other words, vitamin D supplementation had no impact on fall rate or risk.
Likewise, exercise did not reduce the number of falls either. However, the benefits of exercise training, did significantly cut the number of falls requiring medical attention by more than half. “Apparently, this effect [of exercise on the number of injurious falls] was attributable to improved physical functioning,” commented Kirsti Uusi-Rasi, PhD, a lead researcher of the study.
While you may not be able to supplement your way to good health, you may be able to walk there.
Uusi-Rasi, K., Patil, R., Karinkanta, S., Kannus, P., Tokola, K., Lamberg-Allardt, C., & Sievänen, H. (2015). Exercise and Vitamin D in Fall Prevention Among Older Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0225 .