Vitamin D treatment for the prevention of falls in older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Jul;58(7):1299-310. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.02949.x. Epub 2010 Jun 23.


Objectives: To systematically review and quantitatively synthesize the effect of vitamin D therapy on fall prevention in older adults.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Setting: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Web of Science, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, LILACS, bibliographies of selected articles, and previous systematic reviews through February 2009 were searched for eligible studies.

Participants: Older adults (aged > or = 60) who participated in randomized controlled trials that both investigated the effectiveness of vitamin D therapy in the prevention of falls and used an explicit fall definition.

Measurements: Two authors independently extracted data, including study characteristics, quality assessment, and outcomes. The I(2) statistic was used to assess heterogeneity in a random-effects model.

Results: Of 1,679 potentially relevant articles, 10 met inclusion criteria. In pooled analysis, vitamin D therapy (200-1,000 IU) resulted in 14% (relative risk (RR)=0.86, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.79-0.93; I(2)=7%) fewer falls than calcium or placebo (number needed to treat =15). The following subgroups had significantly fewer falls: community-dwelling (aged <80), adjunctive calcium supplementation, no history of fractures or falls, duration longer than 6 months, cholecalciferol, and dose of 800 IU or greater. Meta-regression demonstrated no linear association between vitamin D dose or duration and treatment effect. Post hoc analysis including seven additional studies (17 total) without explicit fall definitions yielded smaller benefit (RR=0.92, 95% CI=0.87-0.98) and more heterogeneity (I(2)=36%) but found significant intergroup differences favoring adjunctive calcium over none (P=.001).

Conclusion: Vitamin D treatment effectively reduces the risk of falls in older adults. Future studies should investigate whether particular populations or treatment regimens may have greater benefit.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D