Primary care prevention of falls and fractures in the elderly by annual vitamin D supplementation [ 2003 - 2007 ]

Also known as: Once yearly vitamin D treatment of elderly women by general practitioners to prevent falls and fractures

Research Grant

[Cite as]

Researchers: Prof Geoffrey Nicholson (Principal investigator) ,  Prof Doris Young Prof Julie Pasco Prof Kerrie Sanders Prof Mark Kotowicz

Brief description While Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer, many of us are not receiving enough sun exposure to adequately maintain necessary blood levels of vitamin D. For years it was assumed that vitamin D deficiency was rarely seen in Australia where sunlight abounds for most of the year. Although few foods are high in vitamin D, it was thought that only certain cultural groups where women are always veiled in public, very dark-skinned people and the housebound elderly, were at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Lower vitamin D levels following wintertime have now been reported in many populations including those living near the Mediterranean and in Geelong, Victoria. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with an increased risk of falling through increased body sway and muscle weakness. Low levels of the vitamin also encourage the removal of calcium from bones and will predispose to bone fracture for two reasons - increased likelihood of falling and increased bone fragility and osteoporosis. Osteoporotic fractures are amongst the most important causes of ill-health among elderly people, causing an estimated 65,000 fractures in 2000-01. If nothing is done, fracture rates are estimated to increase from one every 8.1 minutes in 2001, to one every 3.7 minutes in 2021. Falls among the elderly are also a major health with about a third of people over 70years falling at least once every year. Almost 90% of all hip fractures result from the impact of a fall. This project will trial an annual dose of vitamin D to the elderly at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, falls and fractures. Fifteen hundred women will be supplemented with either vitamin D or a placebo dummy pill at the beginning of winter for five years. The supplementation will take place through their local doctor and researchers will expect to see fewer falls and bone fractures occurring in those receiving vitamin D than in the group receiving the placebo.

Funding Amount $AUD 305,750.00

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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