Vitamin D supplements do not improve bone health, concludes study

Despite recommendations from governmental bodies around the world,  vitamin D supplements do not benefit bone health. The conclusion follows one of the largest reviews ever of vitamin D.

By R_SzatkowskiImage Credit: R_Szatkowski / Shutterstock

The authors of the study are urging physicians, prescribers and the government to stop advising people to take regular vitamin D supplements.

The researchers reviewed 81 robust studies conducted between September 2017 and February 2018, and found that routine vitamin D supplementation had no impact on bone health, except in patients with rare conditions where the risk of deficiency is high.

The review entitled, Effects of Vitamin D supplementation on musculoskeletal health: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and trial sequential analysis, was published yesterday in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal.

At present, the Department of Health in the UK urges people to take vitamin D supplements regularly, especially during the winter months between October and March when UV exposure is low.

Vitamin D supplementation is currently recommended for the elderly and all babies and children below the age of 5 years. The recommendations were put into place in July 2016 by the UK government’s scientific advisory committee on nutrition (SACN).

Study authors, Professor’s Mark Bolland and Andrew Grey, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and Prof Alison Avenell of Aberdeen University explained that last major review analyzing the benefit of Vitamin D supplementation was conducted in 2014.

Over the last four years, over 30 new randomized controlled trials have been carried out and have been published.

Bolland explained that this has doubled the volume of information available on vitamin D and bone health.

Our meta-analysis finds that vitamin D does not prevent fractures, falls or improve bone mineral density, whether at high or low dose.

Professor Mark Bolland, Study Author

According to Bolland and his team, it is time that we stop advocating vitamin D supplementation for osteoporosis; a bone condition where the bones become weak and brittle and tend to fracture easily.

The researchers are calling for changes in the clinical guidelines of osteoporosis management.

Bolland further added that at present the amount of evidence that is available shows that there is little need for “more trials of vitamin D supplements looking at musculoskeletal outcomes.”

Whilst it is universally agreed that vitamin D is essential for good health, the scientists question whether supplementation is necessary.

Avenell explained that although this review included studies that looked at older individuals, the research points towards the fact that adults of all age do not benefit from vitamin D supplementation.

Professor Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England disagrees:

With a fifth of people in the UK showing concerning vitamin D levels, government advice is to achieve this from sunshine and a healthy balanced diet during summer and spring. During autumn and winter, those not consuming foods naturally containing or fortified with vitamin D should consider a 10 microgram supplement.”

Professor Louis Levy, PHE

The research was funded by Health Research Council of New Zealand.

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