Older people who are homebound may be at risk for low vitamin D levels, possibly leading to a risk for falls.

However, research suggests that vitamin D may play a role in maintaining muscle integrity and strength, and may reduce this fall risk among homebound older people.

According to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center set out to evaluate the feasibility of delivering homebound seniors a vitamin D supplement through a Meals-on-Wheels (MOW) program.

A media release from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center notes that poor dietary intake and nutrition-related health conditions, as well as decreased exposure to sunlight, could make homebound seniors vulnerable to lower vitamin D levels.

Per the release, by giving vitamin D supplements to the homebound seniors, the researchers’ aim was to possibly improve their vitamin D levels and reduce their risk of falls.

“Falls in homebound older people often lead to disability and placement in a nursing home,” says Denise Houston, PhD, RD, associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study, in the release.

“One of our aging center’s goals is to help people maintain their independence and live safely at home for as long as possible,” she adds.

During a 5-month, single-blind randomized trial, 68 participants in the Meals-on-Wheels program in Forsyth County, North Carolina, received either a monthly vitamin D supplement of 100,000 international units or placebo delivered with their MOW meal. Participants shared their history of falls and their fear of falling with the research team, took blood tests at the beginning and at end of the trial to measure 25-hydroxyvitamin D (biomarker for vitamin D in blood), and kept a monthly diary recording falls during the trial period, the release explains.

When the study began, the research team found that more than half of the participants had insufficient concentrations of vitamin D in the blood (less than 20 ng/mL), while less than a quarter of them had concentrations in the optimal range (30 ng/mL or more).

However, at the end of the study period, the monthly vitamin D supplement was reportedly effective in increasing the concentrations of vitamin D in the blood from insufficient to sufficient levels in all but one of the 34 people who received it, and to optimal levels in all but five people. In addition, people in the vitamin D group reported approximately half the falls of those in the control group, according to the release.

“Although these initial findings are encouraging, we need to confirm the results in a larger trial,” Houston states in the release.

[Source(s): Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Science Daily]