The effects of vitamin D supplementation on frailty in older adults at risk for falls

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Background: Low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] level is associated with a greater risk of frailty, but the effects of daily vitamin D supplementation on frailty are uncertain. This secondary analysis aimed to examine the effects of vitamin D supplementation on frailty using data from the Study To Understand Fall Reduction and Vitamin D in You (STURDY). Methods: The STURDY trial, a two-stage Bayesian, response-adaptive, randomized controlled trial, enrolled 688 community-dwelling adults aged ≥ 70 years with a low serum 25(OH)D level (10–29 ng/mL) and elevated fall risk. Participants were initially randomized to 200 IU/d (control dose; n = 339) or a higher dose (1000 IU/d, 2000 IU/d, or 4000 IU/d; n = 349) of vitamin D3. Once the 1000 IU/d was selected as the best higher dose, other higher dose groups were reassigned to the 1000 IU/d group and new enrollees were randomized 1:1 to 1000 IU/d or control group. Data were collected at baseline, 3, 12, and 24 months. Frailty phenotype was based on number of the following conditions: unintentional weight loss, exhaustion, slowness, low activity, and weakness (≥ 3 conditions as frail, 1 or 2 as pre-frail, and 0 as robust). Cox proportional hazard models estimated the risk of developing frailty, or improving or worsening frailty status at follow-up. All models were adjusted for demographics, health conditions, and further stratified by baseline serum 25(OH)D level (insufficiency (20–29 ng/mL) vs. deficiency (10–19 ng/mL)). Results: Among 687 participants (mean age 77.1 ± 5.4, 44% women) with frailty assessment at baseline, 208 (30%) were robust, 402 (59%) were pre-frail, and 77 (11%) were frail. Overall, there was no significant difference in risk of frailty outcomes comparing the pooled higher doses (PHD; ≥ 1000 IU/d) vs. 200 IU/d. When comparing each higher dose vs. 200 IU/d, the 2000 IU/d group had nearly double the risk of worsening frailty status (HR = 1.89, 95% CI: 1.13–3.16), while the 4000 IU/d group had a lower risk of developing frailty (HR = 0.22, 95% CI: 0.05–0.97). There were no significant associations between vitamin D doses and frailty status in the analyses stratified by baseline serum 25(OH)D level. Conclusions: High dose vitamin D supplementation did not prevent frailty. Significant subgroup findings might be the results of type 1 error. Trial registration: NCT02166333.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number312
JournalBMC geriatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Frailty
  • Nutrition supplementation
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Vitamin D3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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