Recent guidelines have advocated against the use of vitamin D supplementation as a means to prevent falls in older adults. However, meta-analyses of the available trials have reached divergent conclusions, and the key design features of these trials have not been well characterized. We conducted a systematic review of 30 randomized trials that reported the effects of vitamin D supplements on falls. Trials were identified by reviewing references of published meta-analyses and updated with a systematic PubMed search. We assessed three key design features: (1) recruitment of participants with vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency; (2) provision of daily oral vitamin D supplementation; and (3) utilization of highly sensitive at-event falls ascertainment. The trials enrolled a median of 337 (IQR: 170-1864) participants. Four (13.3%) trials restricted enrollment to those who were at least vitamin D insufficient, 18 (60.0%) included at least one arm providing daily supplementation, and 16 (53.3%) used at-event reporting. There was substantial heterogeneity between trials, and no single trial incorporated all three key design features. Rather than concluding that vitamin D is ineffective as a means to prevent falls, these findings suggest that existing trial evidence is insufficient to guide recommendations on the use of vitamin D supplements to prevent falls.
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