Taking in extra vitamin D plus calcium might cut your odds of getting a debilitating form of vertigo, new research shows.
The Korean study focused on benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), a sudden spinning sensation that’s commonly triggered by changing your head position. According to the study authors, about 86% of people who have this type of vertigo find that it affects their life, even resulting in missed days at work.
Often, the condition can be remedied by undergoing a specific type of head movement under a doctor’s supervision, according to researcher Dr. Ji-Soo Kim, of Seoul National University College of Medicine.
But the new findings now suggest that for folks with BPPV, “taking a supplement of vitamin D and calcium is a simple, low-risk way to prevent vertigo from recurring,” he said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
Kim added that the treatment “is especially effective if you have low vitamin D levels to begin with.”
One U.S. expert said the study adds to prior data supporting the therapy.
The study “represents the best evidence to date that a simple over-the-counter treatment of this common condition affecting adults over the age of 50 is safe and effective,” said Dr. Anthony Geraci. He directs neuromuscular medicine for Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York.
In their study, Kim’s team recruited more than 900 people with BPPV. Participants were divided into two groups. In the first group, those with low vitamin D levels (below 20 nanograms per milliliter) were given supplements with 400 international units of vitamin D and 500 milligrams of calcium, twice daily, while those with healthier vitamin D levels (equal to or greater than 20 ng/mL) were not given supplements.
The second group was not given supplements regardless of their vitamin D levels.
The result: People taking the supplements experienced a 24% reduction in their rate of vertigo compared with those not taking supplements, the researchers found.
The greatest benefit was seen in those who were more deficient in vitamin D to begin with. People whose vitamin D levels were lower than 10 ng/mL saw a 45% reduction in vertigo recurrence, while those with vitamin D levels of 10 to 20 ng/mL saw only a 14% reduction, the researchers found.
In all, 38% of people who took vitamin D/calcium experienced another episode of vertigo, compared with 47% of those who weren’t taking them.
“Our results are exciting because, so far, going to the doctor to have them perform head movements has been the main way we treat benign paroxysmal positional vertigo,” Kim said. “Our study suggests an inexpensive, low-risk treatment like vitamin D and calcium tablets may be effective at preventing this common, and commonly recurring, disorder.”
Geraci noted there are already good reasons to get more vitamin D and calcium into your diet.
“The beneficial effects of vitamin D and calcium supplementation have previously been shown to improve cardiovascular health, bone health and reduction in fractures due to falls in the elderly,” he noted.
Dr. Sami Saba is a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Great Neck, New York. He said that “the standard treatment for BPPV is a repositioning maneuver that puts the crystals in the inner ear that have been displaced back where they belong.”
However, Saba added, “the symptoms often recur after such a maneuver, and until now there hasn’t been any proven treatment to prevent recurrence.”
Vitamin D plus calcium might change all that, Saba said — and there’s logic behind the treatment.
“The inner ear crystals, or otoconia, are partially made of calcium carbonate, and vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism, so the mechanism of the treatment makes sense,” he said.
The report was published online Aug. 5 in the journal Neurology.