Elderly people who get supplemental vitamin D in their diets have stronger muscles than those who don't, according to evidence from studies funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

The ARS said the findings underscore the importance of getting adequate vitamin D for the prevention of falls among the elderly. An estimated one-third of people aged over 65 and up to half of those aged over 80 are injured in falls each year.

Researchers studied five major vitamin D clinical trials conducted with older populations during the last 43 years. Their analysis revealed that among more than 1,200 participants studied in controlled trials during those decades, elderly people fell down 22% less often if they took vitamin D supplements. The people studied averaged age 70, were in stable health, and were either community-dwelling or living in some type of care facility.

The analysis was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. ARS is the US Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.