Falls among the elderly individuals occur frequently and lead to substantial morbidity and mortality, but although research has already shown use of vitamin D supplements to reduce the risk, not all trials confirm these benefits.
Furthermore, the new trial, carried out by a team from Australia, involved 625 nursing homes who had adequate vitamin D status. Many elderly are deficient in this vitamin.
Yet even though the subjects had adequate levels of vitamin D, they still benefitted from the supplements.
According to the report in this month's issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (vol 53, issue 11, pp1881-8), the vitamin D group were between 27-37 per cent less likely to experience a fall compared with the placebo group after two years.
An analysis of subjects who took at least half the prescribed capsules demonstrated an incident rate ratio for falls of 0.63, an odds ratio for ever falling of 0.70 and an odds ratio for ever fracturing of 0.68, the researchers said.
"This study supports the use of vitamin D supplements in older people in residential care," write the researchers.
"Older people in residential care can reduce their incidence of falls if they take a vitamin D supplement for two years even if they are not initially classically vitamin D deficient," they conclude.