Effects of vitamin D supplementation on strength, physical performance, and falls in older persons: a systematic review

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 Sep;51(9):1219-26. doi: 10.1046/j.1532-5415.2003.51405.x.


Objectives: identify, appraise, and synthesize data from randomized, controlled trials of vitamin D supplementation in older people.

Design: A systematic review of trials identified from searches of databases, reference lists, review articles, and recent conference proceedings.

Setting: Most studies performed in ambulatory setting.

Participants: Older people (mean age=60).

Interventions: Vitamin D or vitamin D metabolites.

Measurements: Strength, physical performance, or falls.

Results: Thirteen trials involving 2,496 patients met this study's inclusion criteria. Most of the trials were small and had methodological problems. In 10 trials, there was no evidence that vitamin D or vitamin D metabolites had an effect on falls or physical function, but three trials showed a positive effect of vitamin D in combination with calcium. When available data from the four highest quality trials were pooled (n=1,317), there continued to be no evidence that vitamin D reduced the risk of falling (relative risk= 0.99, 95% confidence interval=0.89-1.11), although a single trial of vitamin D and calcium showed a positive effect.

Conclusion: Although there is insufficient evidence that vitamin D supplementation alone improves physical performance in older people, some data suggest a benefit from vitamin D combined with calcium supplementation, but this requires confirmation in large, well-designed trials.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Administration, Oral
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Calcium / administration & dosage
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxycholecalciferols
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Placebos
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage*


  • Hydroxycholecalciferols
  • Placebos
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium