Vitamin D deficiency, muscle function, and falls in elderly people

Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Apr;75(4):611-5. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/75.4.611.


An inadequate serum vitamin D status is commonly seen in elderly people as the result of various risk factors interacting in this population. Apart from the well-known effects on bone metabolism, this condition is also associated with muscle weakness, predominantly of the proximal muscle groups. Muscle weakness below a certain threshold affects functional ability and mobility, which puts an elderly person at increased risk of falling and fractures. Therefore, we wanted to determine the rationale behind vitamin D supplementation in elderly people to preserve and possibly improve muscle strength and subsequently functional ability. From experimental studies it was found that vitamin D metabolites directly influence muscle cell maturation and functioning through a vitamin D receptor. Vitamin D supplementation in vitamin D-deficient, elderly people improved muscle strength, walking distance, and functional ability and resulted in a reduction in falls and non-vertebral fractures. In healthy elderly people, muscle strength declined with age and was not prevented by vitamin D supplementation. In contrast,severe comorbidity might affect muscle strength in such a way that restoration of a good vitamin D status has a limited effect on functional ability. Additional research is needed to further clarify to what extent vitamin D supplementation can preserve muscle strength and prevent falls and fractures in elderly people.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Density
  • Female
  • Geriatrics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Vitamin D / metabolism
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology


  • Vitamin D