Elderly Women with Low Vitamin D Risk Fracture

Vitamin D insufficiency associated with fracture risk over ten years for senior women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People's bones tend to grow more fragile as they age, especially in older women. But there may be factors that are within a person's control to help decrease the risk for fracture.

A recent study found that long-term vitamin D insufficiency was associated with a greater 10-year risk of having a hip or osteoporotic (bone disease) fracture in elderly women.

The researchers suggested that higher vitamin D levels may help lower the chance of falling or having a fracture in old age.

"Get your vitamin D levels checked out."

The lead author of this study was David Buchebner from the Clinical and Molecular Osteoporosis Research Unit at Lund University in Malmö, Sweden and the Department of Internal Medicine at Halmstad County Hospital in Halmstad, Sweden.

The study included 640 Swedish women aged 75 years old at the start of the study (baseline).

The researchers measured vitamin D levels in the women's blood at baseline and after a five-year follow-up.

Vitamin D levels of less than 50 nmol/L were considered low, levels between 50 and 75 nmol/L were considered intermediate, and levels of over 75 nmol/L were considered high.

Those who had intermediate and high levels of vitamin D were considered to be vitamin D sufficient.

Buchebner and team also followed the women's bone fracture rate for 10 years using X-rays.

The women who had the same category of vitamin D levels at baseline and after five years were considered to have consistently low, intermediate or high levels.

The findings showed that 7 percent of the women with consistently high vitamin D levels, and 10 percent of the women with consistently intermediate levels, experienced a hip fracture within 10 years. Those rates are compared with 21 percent of the women who had consistently low vitamin D levels.

A total of 26 percent of the consistently high group, and 30 percent of the consistently intermediate group, had a FRAX fracture, compared with 46 percent of the consistently low group.

FRAX stands for "fracture risk assessment tool," which measures the 10-year probability of major osteoporotic fractures of the spine, forearm, hip and shoulder. Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become fragile due to loss of calcium and minerals in the bone.

The researchers determined that shoulder, forearm and spine fractures were not associated with vitamin D levels.

Most of the fractures happened between five and 10 years after baseline, with 77 percent of hip fractures and 64 percent of FRAX fractures happening during that period.

The findings also revealed that the time to first fracture — both hip and FRAX — did not significantly differ between the three vitamin D level groups.

The researchers concluded that consistent vitamin D insufficiency over five years was associated with an increased risk of an osteoporotic fracture over the period of 10 years for elderly women.

Dr. Kristina Akesson, co-author of the study explained, "This is part of a body of research which increasingly suggests that falls and fracture risk in the elderly could be lower by having higher vitamin D levels. The International Osteoporosis Foundation global recommendations for vitamin D advise daily intakes of 800 to 1000 IU/day in seniors for fracture and falls prevention, and if the on-going research shows that vitamin D levels are increased it may be a relatively simple and low-cost public health measure that could have significant positive effects on the incidence of osteoporotic fractures with aging."

This study was presented on April 4 at the World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases. Findings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
April 4, 2014
Last Updated:
April 6, 2014