The effect of monthly vitamin D supplementation on fractures: a tertiary outcome from the population-based, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled D-Health trial

Mary Waterhouse, Peter R. Ebeling, Donald S.A. McLeod, Dallas English, Briony Duarte Romero, Catherine Baxter, Bruce K. Armstrong, Gunter Hartel, Michael Kimlin, Rachel L. O'Connell, Jolieke C. van der Pols, Alison J. Venn, Penelope M. Webb, David C. Whiteman, Rachel E. Neale*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: 

Low serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D concentration is associated with increased fracture risk. It is uncertain whether vitamin D supplementation reduces fractures, or whether intermittent doses are harmful. We aimed to investigate if supplementing adults living in Australia with monthly doses of 60 000 international units (IU) vitamin D3 for 5 years or less altered the rate of fractures. 

Methods:

We did a population-based, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of oral vitamin D3 supplementation (60 000 IU per month) for up to 5 years in adults aged 60–84 years living in Australia. We randomly assigned (1:1) 21 315 participants to either vitamin D or placebo. We ascertained fractures through linkage with administrative datasets. The main outcome was total fractures. Additional outcomes were non-vertebral, major osteoporotic (hip, wrist, proximal humerus, and spine), and hip fractures. We excluded participants (989 [4·6%]) without linked data, and estimated hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs using flexible parametric survival models. The trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN12613000743763, and the trial intervention ended in February, 2020. 

Findings:

Between Feb 14, 2014, and June 17, 2015, we recruited 21 315 participants. For the current analysis, we included 20 326 participants (vitamin D 10 154 [50·0%]; placebo 10 172 [50·0%]). 9295 (45·7%) of 20 326 participants were women and the mean age was 69·3 years (SD 5·5). Over a median follow-up of 5·1 years (IQR 5·1–5·1), 568 (5·6%) participants in the vitamin D group and 603 (5·9%) in the placebo group had one or more fractures. There was no effect on fracture risk overall (HR 0·94 [95% CI 0·84–1·06]), and the interaction between randomisation group and time was not significant (p=0·14). However, the HR for total fractures appeared to decrease with increasing follow-up time. The overall HRs for non-vertebral, major osteoporotic, and hip fractures were 0·96 (95% CI 0·85–1·08), 1·00 (0·85–1·18), and 1·11 (0·86–1·45), respectively. 

Interpretation:

These findings do not support concerns that bolus doses of vitamin D administered monthly increase fracture risk. Long-term supplementation might reduce the incidence of total fractures, but additional research is needed to clarify this effect. 

Funding: Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-332
Number of pages9
JournalThe Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology
Volume11
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes

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