Vitamin D and the impact on bone health of seniors

March 7, 2016

Senior citizens are prone to having low levels of vitamin D. This is a serious issue that could lead to devastating consequences such as falls, fractures, and osteoporosis.

Vitamin D and falls in older individuals

An analysis of several double-blind randomized clinical trials demonstrated that by supplementing with 700 to 1000 IU vitamin D per day, older people reduce their risk of falling by 20 per cent, whether or not they were also taking calcium supplements. [1]

Vitamin D and fractures in older individuals

Vitamin D in combination with calcium is often used in an attempt to decrease the risk of fractures in bones other than the vertebrae in older individuals [2][3] particularly those in institutional care.[3] An analysis of multiple vitamin D studies determined that a dose of vitamin D 400 IU per day or greater is helpful for individuals aged 65 years or older.[4]

Vitamin D and osteoporosis in older individuals

Osteoporosis consists of a progressive loss of bone mass. Most of our bone mass is built up from the age of 10 to 20 or 30, and after that, we start losing bone mass. [5][6] If too much bone mass is lost as we get older, our bones become fragile and may fracture more easily. Osteoporosis is a devastating and costly disease affecting 10 million Americans; another 34 million have low bone mass, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis.[7] Without intervention, one in two women and one in three men aged 50 and above will experience a fracture due to osteoporosis.[7] The hip, spine, and wrist are the most common sites of fracture, with the hip fracture having the most devastating complications.[8]

Surprisingly, only 20 per cent of people who have suffered a hip or other fracture due to osteoporosis receive treatment. [7]

We are not able to provide you with a recommendation for how much vitamin D one should take on a daily basis. We recommend that you speak with a healthcare professional about your personal situation.

  1. Dawson-Hughes, A. Mithal, J.-P. Bonjour, S. Boonen, et al., Osteoporosis International, IOF position statement: vitamin D recommendations for older adults, July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1151-1154, First online: 27 April 2010
  2. Avenell A1,Mak JC, O’Connell D. Vitamin D and vitamin D analogues for preventing fractures in post-menopausal women and older men. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Apr 14;4:CD000227. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000227.pub4.
  3. Tom R. Hill, Terence J. Aspray and Roger M. Francis (2013). Vitamin D and bone health outcomes in older age. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 72, pp 372-380. doi:10.1017/S0029665113002036.
  4. Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, DrPH, Walter C. Willett, DrPH, John B. Wong, MD et al. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(6):551-561. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2008.600. Prevention of Nonvertebral Fractures With Oral Vitamin D and Dose DependencyA Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. March 23, 2009.
  5. Hightower L., Osteoporosis: pediatric disease with geriatric consequences, Orthop Nurs.2000 Sep-Oct;19(5):59-62.
  6. NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, Kids and Their Bones, March 2015,
  7. RichardDell, Denise Greene, Steven R. Schelkun et al. Osteoporosis Disease Management: The Role of the Orthopaedic Surgeon. J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2008 Nov; 90 (Supplement 4): 188 -194 .
  8. Nicholas Harvey, Elaine Dennison & Cyrus Cooper , Osteoporosis: impact on health and economics, Nature Reviews Rheumatology6, 99-105 (February 2010) |doi:10.1038/nrrheum.2009.260
  9. The Institute of Medicine, DRIs for Calcium and Vitamin D. November 30 2010.
  10. Health Canada. Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes. March 22, 2012.
  11. National Osteoporosis Foundation, Calcium and Vitamin D: What You Need to Know.
  12. Osteoporosis Canada, Healthy Eating for Healthy Bones
Tags: bone, elderly, senior, sun, teeth, vitamin D