|Study finds vitamin reduces falls|
|Friday, 21 July 2006 10:00 | Print page:|
A GEELONG-based study has found a link between annual doses of vitamin D reducing the number of falls suffered by elderly women.
More than 2300 women, aged 71-95, are involved in the five-year research project which tests the effects of vitamin D by giving doses of it to some of the participants while others are administered a placebo.
Anglesea's Betty Butterworth takes part in the study at Grace McKellar with administrative officer Cathy Verecondi, and research scientist Amanda Hayles.
One of the study's chief investigators, Dr Kerrie Sanders from Melbourne University's department of clinical and biomedical sciences, said although vitamin D was produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight, recent studies had shown deficiency of the vitamin was very common in the general population, particularly in older Australians.
Dr Sanders, who is based at Barwon Health, said low levels of the vitamin were associated with higher risk of fractures and also contributed to falls through reduced muscle strength.
The study requires participants, including more than 1500 women from the Barwon region, to record how often they suffer falls and fractures.
About 125 of the women also undergo specialised testing each year which includes exercises to measure their balance and their gait.
Dr Sanders said the vitamin D would be beneficial for elderly men too, but they weren't used in the study because three times as many participants would have needed to be used as men suffered fewer fractures than women.
Speaking at a testing day at the Grace McKellar Centre yesterday, Dr Sanders said it was hoped the study, which will finish in 2008, would help make high doses of vitamin D available in Australia.
She said an annual dose of the vitamin would only cost about $10 a year and could prevent more than 7000 hip and wrist fractures annually, based on her previous work.
"Because it's only a once-a-year dose it would be really easy to combine it with flu vaccinations so it would be easy and cheap to put into practice,'' Dr Sanders said.
"This represents a significantly higher quality of life for thousands of older Australians and would save over $82 million currently spent on treatment of these fractures each year.''