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Effect of four monthly oral vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplementation on fractures and mortality in men and women living in the community: randomised double blind controlled trial

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:469
  1. Daksha P Trivedi, research fellowa,
  2. Richard Doll, emeritus professorb,
  3. Kay Tee Khaw, professor of clinical gerontology (kk101{at}
  1. a Clinical Gerontology Unit, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
  2. b Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit, University of Oxford
  1. Correspondence to: K T Khaw
  • Accepted 10 December 2002


Objective: To determine the effect of four monthly vitamin D supplementation on the rate of fractures in men and women aged 65 years and over living in the community.

Design: Randomised double blind controlled trial of 100 000 IU oral vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplementation or matching placebo every four months over five years.

Setting and participants: 2686 people (2037 men and 649 women) aged 65-85 years living in the general community, recruited from the British doctors register and a general practice register in Suffolk.

Main outcome measures: Fracture incidence and total mortality by cause.

Results: After five years 268 men and women had incident fractures, of whom 147 had fractures in common osteoporotic sites (hip, wrist or forearm, or vertebrae). Relative risks in the vitamin D group compared with the placebo group were 0.78 (95% confidence interval 0.61 to 0.99, P=0.04) for any first fracture and 0.67 (0.48 to 0.93, P=0.02) for first hip, wrist or forearm, or vertebral fracture. 471 participants died. The relative risk for total mortality in the vitamin D group compared with the placebo group was 0.88 (0.74 to 1.06, P=0.18). Findings were consistent in men and women and in doctors and the general practice population.

Conclusion: Four monthly supplementation with 100 000 IU oral vitamin D may prevent fractures without adverse effects in men and women living in the general community.

What is already known in this topic

What is already known in this topic Vitamin D and calcium supplements are effective in preventing fractures in elderly women

Whether isolated vitamin D supplementation prevents fractures is not clear

What this paper adds

What this paper adds Four monthly oral supplementation with 100 000 IU vitamin D reduces fractures in men and women aged over 65 living in the general community

Total fracture incidence was reduced by 22% and fractures in major osteoporotic sites by 33%


  • Funding Start up grant from the Medical Research Council.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Accepted 10 December 2002
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